There are few things that Tennessee takes more seriously than barbeque and live music. If you’re heading to Memphis and looking for the best live shows around, here are the top 7 places you can find top-notch live music any day of the week, year-round.
Beale Street Entertainment District
Yes, an entire entertainment district. With neon lights and a truly historic feel, you can imagine your way back to the jazz and blues era of this great city and let your ears guide you from blues bars to jazz clubs to the outdoor festivals hosted regularly on this historic street. If you can’t quite decide what flavor of Memphis nightlife you’re looking for, start your evening here.
Jerry Lee Lewis’ Honky Tonk Cafe
The legend built up his name in Memphis, and now he brings in the best musicians in the area to his Honky Tonk club. You can get a feel for some real southern favorites in the cafe, or spend some time outdoors on the patio where a second stage showcases other acts in good weather. When it’s time to rest your dancing shoes, head upstairs to the balcony for a drink with a stellar view of Beale Street. If you’re lucky, Mr. Lewis himself might just be around.
Didn’t you know that every day is St. Patrick’s Day? It is at Silky’s. With live music every day and night and a kitchen that’s always open, the Irish party never stops. The building has been in operation serving cold beer and strong spirits for over 100 years, at times in its history seeing up to 14 bartenders on at a time to serve the rowdy crowds. These days the vibe is a little more relaxed, but come on the right night and you might just end up staying until close.
Rum Boogie Cafe
Just the name should be enough to entice. Music every night of the week means you can always come and get your boogie on and sample some fine, smooth rum in a wide variety of forms. The cafe is home to more than 200 signed guitars from some of the genre’s most epic musicians, from Elvis and Stevie Ray Vaughan to Alice Cooper and Aerosmith. Before the show, you can grab some authentic Cajun, with a seafood gumbo that has been a two-time winner of the International Rajun Cajun Crawfish Festival and Gumbo Cookoff in Memphis.
Rock Venue, Lounge, Ping Pong Purveyors, Grizzlies, and Tigers Fans. They do a little bit of all the best things at Hi Tone, from 5pm-3am every night of the week. If Honky Tonk and Blues aren’t really your style, you can rev up your ears for some hardcore, techno/dance, straight rock and roll, and a semi-regular hip-hop throwback night at this venue. Got you curious? You bet.
If you’re looking for the biggest names in local and national music, a gorgeous venue, and… free admission? The Levitt Shell is Memphis’ community destination for free (amazing!) music. With artists like Lucinda Williams, Los Lobos, Sam Outlaw, and The Dirty Dozen Brass Band, there is music and a good time to be had Thursday through Sunday. If you’re looking for community hangouts in Memphis, this is the place to see and be seen.
The history of this spot has its roots in a song: the original “Minglewood Blues”, written by Noah Lewis, was recorded on January 30, 1928, in Memphis, TN by Cannons Jug Stompers. “The New Minglewood Blues” was a complete re-write and was recorded by a wide range of musicians from Noah Lewis Jug Band to the Grateful Dead. There’s still some uncertainty around what a Minglewood is, but needless to say, this venue continues to honor the musical legacy of Memphis. You can certainly find some down-home folk and blues, but you’ll also find a wide range of other musicians gracing the stage at Minglewood.