Best Places to See Live Music in Franklin, Tennessee
Franklin’s historic Main Street might feel like a world away from Broadway in downtown Nashville, and in most ways, it is! Williamson County is home to so many talented artists and songwriters, we don’t have to pull world-class talent from other places for our music scene, they just naturally fill the stages here in their own backyard! With so many A-list artists that call the area home, you never know who you might see jump on stage here.
Framed by the stunning architecture, friendly merchants, and enticing smells, the soundtrack of downtown Franklin rounds out the sensory checklist of what makes this place unique. On any given day, you might find buskers – most of whom are local students – playing violin or guitar under a stoop or on a bench. Outside McCreary’s Irish Pub, Celtic musicians might have gathered on the sidewalk to share classic tunes, and on weekends at Gray’s on Main, a range of talented artists plugin on the big stage.
At the 300-seat, restored 1930s era Franklin Theatre, national touring artists and old favorites are the standard on the stage of what’s often referred to as the best 300-seat music venue in the world. In addition to national music touring acts, the Franklin Theatre has a full performance season of everything from chamber ensembles to dance troupes. Around the corner on Fourth Avenue South, Puckett’s Gro. & Restaurant has always been a go-to for songwriters nights, Monday through Saturday. You never know who will be on the Puckett’s stage, as stars like Walker Hayes and many others got their start there.
And during the holiday season, all of Main Street becomes a stage for Dickens of a Christmas, a Victorian-themed street festival complete with strolling characters, carolers, and performers. The 36th Annual edition is set for December 11-12, 2021.
If live bands and late nights are what you’re after, it doesn’t get more authentic than the Legendary Kimbro’s Pickin’ Parlor on South Margin Street, where the music often plays until midnight and the bar is open even later. Whereas Kimbro’s is more of a juke joint than a performance hall, sister venue Mockingbird Theater in the Factory at Franklin is a 170-seat concert auditorium with state-of-the-art sound and lights for regular full band shows.
If a drive through the hills of Williamson County is in order, and we think it should be, head to Leiper’s Fork and the original Puckett’s Grocery, a 1950s country grocery store that now serves up a slow-smoked barbecue, home-cooked plates, and incredible live music. If you’re looking for celebrity sightings and maybe even a cameo, this is the place to be on Thursdays for an open mic night that can’t be missed. Stick around on Friday and Saturday nights for full sets of live music as well. Down the road at Leiper’s Fork Distillery, keep an eye on their calendar for the Still House Sessions.
In the warmer months, the award-winning winery that calls our county home becomes a destination for locals and visitors alike. Co-owned by Kix Brooks, half of the multi-GRAMMY winning duo Brooks & Dunn, Arrington Vineyards presents Music in the Vines. April through October, enjoy live jazz and bluegrass on Saturdays and Sundays with an array of notable wines. In the fall, Kix -and usually a famous friend or two- take the stage for a free show during the vineyard’s annual Harvest Party.
Another incredible new addition is the FirstBank Ampitheater in Thompson’s Station, a former rock quarry that has been transformed into a boutique amphitheater with a capacity of 7,500, phenomenal acoustics, and a naturally unique setting unlike anything else in the south. Keep an eye on their 2022 lineup, which promises a star-studded series.
And then there’s the Pilgrimage Music and Cultural Festival. Each September since 2015 (with a break for the pandemic), the historic Park at Harlinsdale Farm has been transformed into a village of multiple stages that have seen the likes of Willie Nelson to Justin Timberlake, Eddie Vedder to Dave Matthews, Jason Isbell to Foo Fighters, and Sheryl Crow to Steven Tyler. With a capacity of 25,000 against the backdrop of a legendary horse farm, this festival brings a diverse set of headliners and rising stars that Rolling Stone has called “arguably the best curated” of anywhere in the country.
Whatever your sound, style, or vibe, you’re sure to find it in Franklin.