Knoxville, Tennessee is a city with a rich and unique musical heritage that is reverberated throughout all of the city’s diverse venues. Take a short stroll through the city’s downtown, and you will hear vibrant live music almost everywhere. In Knoxville, as well as any great music city, you have to get deep in the heart of city to truly see the great bands.
It’s in the pub-style venues that you will find the authentic “Knoxville Sound.” It’s at these murky dive bars where it seems the local and touring bands thrive. The best bars to see local live music in the city are Scruffy City Hall, and its next door neighbor, Preservation Pub, located in Market Square.
Both of these venues bring in some of the best local and national talent that nobody has heard of yet. You can go into either of these bars any night of the week and see remarkable live music. Preservation Pub has a smoky, dive bar vibe with incredible energy. It’s packed every night of the week. Scruffy City Hall is larger and has a classy, yet almost goth-esque, vibe, and the sound is absolutely untouchable. Both Scruffy City Hall and Preservation Pub have unreal atmosphere.
But, if you find yourself in Knoxville’s Old City, the two places to see great live music are Barley’s Taproom and the Pilot Light. Barley’s has a fantastic open room, and they bring in some amazing touring bands. The only problem with the venue is the lack of consistent crowd. Sometimes they host world class musicians that are performing to a crowd of maybe a half dozen people. Even so, catch Barley’s on the right night, and you will be in for a great time.
For all the Indie gurus out there, the Pilot Light is the go to venue in the city. With the elegance of CBGBs, it is the epitome of dive bar. They only serve PBR and bring in bands performing sets from black metal to an experimental jazz style that mimics someone serenading a viper. The Pilot Light is an underground Knoxville staple and it is an experience all in its self.
Knoxville’s incredible music scene is a well kept secret. The music performed there is legendary. It’s one of those scenes that will only be heard about once the greatness has already passed. There is soul to this city that only few experience. If you make your way through Appalachia, make a stop in Knoxville and experience a beautifully pure music scene.