Jimmie Rodgers, the “Father of Country Music” started strumming his guitar for beer-drinkers along the streets of Nashville in the 1930s. Sometime between then and today, the city’s Broadway took a turn for the wild. Nowadays, most locals give the neon-drenched street a wide berth and complain that the area has become something of a parody of itself—a relentless bachelorette party and booze-fueled musical carnival, all rolled into one strip.
Come nightfall, “Nashvegas” fills with roving packs of women donning sashes, cowgirl boots, and hats. Many of the bar-venues boast a loose celebrity tie-in, from Justin Timberlake’s Twelve Thirty Club to Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville to Kid Rock’s thunderous, multistory Big A** Honky Tonk Rock N’ Roll Steakhouse. The lines are long, the cab drivers notorious for ripping off passengers, and the pedestrian-only street is cacophonous with competing country bands.
It is, for many first-timers, a lot. But, with a game-plan, it can also be a lot of fun. There’s no cover at the venues dotting Broadway, meaning you can easily hop between free concerts all night long. And for all the shtick, Nashville’s “Music City” moniker is hard-earned, and competition among local bands is fierce.
If great live music is what you seek, stroll straight past the glitzy, A-list-affiliated joints and head straight for Robert’s Western World. Occupying a former warehouse that was once home to Sho-Bud Steel Guitar Company, this legendary honky-tonk bar is also a cowboy boot store during daylight hours. Since the early 1990s, the location has been among the best spots to dance to country music—and it remains one of the few places on Broadway that still draws locals. Most days, the band starts playing by 10 a.m. and the music carries on well past nightfall. In the spaces between the walls plastered with decades’ worth of memorabilia, bartenders sling cheap (but strong!) drinks and the vibe is raucous (but friendly!).
A few things have changed about Robert’s Western World over the years, including its name, which was originally Rhinestone Western Wear. The ownership has also changed—Robert sold the business to Jesse Lee Jones, the Brazilian-born musician and leader of the current house band, who runs it to this day. But, despite the logistical shifts, the iconic “Recession Special” remains on Robert’s menu. For six bucks, you can still get a fried bologna sandwich, chips, a Moon Pie, and a cold PBR. If you hang around long enough, you’ll definitely need one.
Know Before You Go
Show up early to grab a floor seat in the afternoon and enjoy some of the best people-watching in town.