Live Entertainment Venues in Memphis, TN
If you’re a child of the ‘70s, the Bucc’s pirate motif will transport you back to the ill-conceived rec rooms you partied in during high school. Of course, the Poop Deck, a brick fireplace, beer stained indoor/outdoor carpeting, and the never-ending supply of Budweiser only enhance the environment. As a venue, the Buccaneer books all genres of music – come early in the evening, and you might catch a bluegrass band or a set from the fabulous Fitz’s Ultimate Cookin’ Hookers; by midnight, a metal group might be blasting chords from a stack of amplifiers taller than the fireplace mantel. Be wary during your walk from the car to the club – this block of Monroe is mainly occupied by panhandlers and streetwalkers – but know that once you reach the Bucc’s front deck, you’re safe. Be sure to bring a carton of Camel Lights, because smoking is encouraged.
The city’s friendliest juke joint, located just north of Rhodes College at the intersection of Vollentine Avenue and Avalon Street, Wild Bill’s packs ‘em in every weekend. Navigate your way past the legion of Cadillacs and Lincoln Town Cars parked out front, towards the narrow glass-fronted door sandwiched in between three beauty shops and a meat market. The set up is simple: Three rows of tables that run the length of the room, with a bandstand just inside the front door, and a bar and jukebox in the back. The walls are painted a cheerful orange color, which complement the paintings and photographs of the lat owner and his patrons that are thumb tacked throughout the room. Most nights, the Hollywood All Stars provide the music at Wild Bill’s. Led by bassist Melvin Lee, the loosely knit group has been a pivotal force on the local blues scene for the past two decades.
Family friendly and entertaining yet educational, this local institution is the perfect place to take in a concert by local musicians while digging through kitschy bottle cap folk art, “Be Nice or Leave” paintings, sculptures, CDs, and t-shirts for your favorite made-in-Memphis souvenir. Every Labor Day Weekend, hundreds of musicians, storytellers, chefs, and folk artists convene in downtown Memphis for the Center’s free Memphis Music and Heritage Festival, which has evolved into an all-encompassing celebration of music, food, folklife, and traditions that honor every aspect of local culture ranging from Choctaw tribal lore to the dance rituals brought here by recent Asian immigrants.
Located in Elvis Presley’s one-time karate dojo across the street from Overton Park, the Hi-Tone is the go-to venue for indie music fans. Don’t let the laidback attitudes and sweaty, steamy atmosphere fool you – the Hi-Tone is also a favorite for stellar artists like Elvis Costello, who chose to film a concert DVD in this intimate venue in 2005. Go for the live music, which revolves between locals and headlining touring groups seven nights a week, but stick around for the pizza and, as improbable as it sounds, considering weekend shows don’t wrap up until 3:00 am, for Sunday brunch. Whatever you do, don’t park in the Memphis College of Art’s parking lot next door – that free parking space will end up costing you a bundle when you have to retrieve your car from the impound lot.
Built in 1936 under the aegis of the Works Progress Administration, the Levitt Shell is a part of Memphis music history. Elvis Presley performed one of his first concerts here on July 30, 1954, mere weeks after cutting “That’s Alright, Mama” at nearby Sun Studio; in the 1970s, beloved Southern rock groups like Big Star and Trapeze packed the concrete amphitheatre. After falling on hard times, the Shell was renovated in 2008 and has since regained its reputation as the jewel of Overton Park. Today, an eclectic schedule of free films and concerts bring thousands of Memphians to this destination spot.