The Most Accurately Named Music Venue Award goes to Blues Boulevard Jazz in Downtown Greenville. Sitting on the banks of the Reedy River just a stone's throw from Main Street, Blues Boulevard Jazz serves up live jazz and blues every single weekend in a room perfectly designed for such a sound. Jazz bars are meant to be dark and quiet with only the occasional clinking of glasses heard between songs and Blues Boulevard Jazz fits the bill perfectly. Unlike the jazz bars of the Prohibition era, the drinks are legal and there's no smoking - both upgrades from the ol' days if you ask me.
Recommended for Live Music because: Every Downtown needs a jazz bar and it's even cooler when it sits on the Reedy River.
Brett's expert tip: Bring cash for the cover at the door.
Once upon a time, Rainer's was a café attached to an art gallery until someone decided the gallery looked better down the street and its space should bring a little more nightlife to South Main Street. It was a great decision as the space has a legitimate big city style right on a cozy corner of Downtown Greenville. The cocktails are fantastic, as is the music which features jazz and acoustic sets from rock, country, and Americana artists. Reservations are accepted for the bigger shows and there might be a $10 drink minimum which is something you will not have a problem with when you feast your eyes on the cocktail menu.
Recommended for Live Music because: Rainer's delivers an eclectic array of music paired with a big city ambiance every weekend.
Brett's expert tip: If you're wondering how the name is pronounced, the vowel in Rainer's is a long "i", not a long "a".
While you might not intuitively think of a record store as a music venue, Horizon Records has quite the knack for hosting some amazing in-store performances. Touring artists often stop in on their way through Greenville or, often, for a few songs ahead of a full evening at The Peace Center, Radio Room, or Fall for Greenville. Shows may last as little as three or four songs or may fill an evening with full sets. The intimate setting amidst a wonderful collection of CDs, records, stereo equipment, and memorabilia makes it hard to beat and always makes for a memorable occasion making Horizon Records one of my favorite places to catch a show, whoever they may be hosting.
Recommended for Live Music because: Horizon Records is an iconic Greenville record store with a commitment to music across all mediums
Brett's expert tip: Now that Greenville Yoga has moved to a new location, their old building's parking lot is fair game until it has a new tenant.
Possibly the most unassuming venue on the list, Gottrocks was the Radio Room before we had the Radio Room. Sitting on a hill overlooking Pleasantburg Drive, Gottrocks is the classic midtown dive bar open until 2 am seven nights a week. Come the weekend, though, the Gottrocks stage comes to life with a heavy focus on rock and jam bands to carry you well into the wee hours of the evening. It is the home to many a local tribute show and collaborations of local musicians as well as a great spot to catch regional and nationally touring artists looking to set up shop in Greenville for an evening.
Recommended for Live Music because: Gottrocks has been bringing live music to the Upstate for years and serves as a kind of "home base" for a number of local artists.
Brett's expert tip: Don't blink or you'll miss it, you could drive past it every day and not know it's there.
Smiley's Acoustic Café is the one place in Downtown Greenville where you are almost guaranteed to see live music on stage every time you walk through the door. On most nights the venue presents not one but two shows - an early gig at 6:30 and a later one kicking off at 9:30 or 10 - making it the perfect spot for early birds and night owls alike. The room is cozy and intimate and they offer a full-service bar and dinner menu which means that "catching dinner and a show" has never been easier for your next date night. If you are looking to break up the monotony that is the beginning of the week, check out local favorite Charles Hedgepath's Tuesday night residency where he is always joined by a different member of the local music community for a wonderfully creative night of entertainment.
Recommended for Live Music because: Smiley's is Downtown's oldest music with live shows six nights a week (well, five if you don't count karaoke on Wednesday)
Brett's expert tip: Weekends offer two shows a night, an early show for happy hour and a late one for the night owls.
Swanson's Warehouse is a sneaky little venue that has just emerged on the Upstate music scene. Open for both public and private events, its entry is a nondescript door at the far end of the Fireforge Crafted Beer building on Washington Street. Marked only by a PBR-esque logo, the venue is definitely a blink-and-you'll-miss-it hidden gem. Inside you will find a steady stream of both local and touring musicians taking turns on the Swanson's stage. Located just two blocks from Main Street in Downtown Greenville, this is the perfect venue for a great evening out with plenty of dining options (and a great brewery next door to boot!).
Recommended for Live Music because: Swanson's is a great new addition to the Downtown music scene with great shows in a cool atmosphere.
Brett's expert tip: Grab a pre-show beer and a snack right next door at Fireforge Crafted Ale.
Most nights The Velo Fellow is Downtown Greenville's best little English-style pub featuring great cocktails, craft beer, and classic pub fare. On the weekends, however, check the listening room in the back of the pub. Local, regional, and nationally touring artists are always stopping by for an evening of entertainment in Downtown Greenville. The space is also home to a nano-brewery which means delicious craft brews are pouring right from the source in the very same room. Both behind and underneath the Mellow Mushroom on Augusta Street, Velo Fellow is easy to miss but you do not want to miss out on some of the great shows they are bringing us week after week.
Recommended for Live Music because: The Velo Fellow offers an inviting atmosphere, live music, and a great menu.
Brett's expert tip: Their whiskey menu is outstanding but you still have to try their craft beer brewed on-site.
The backdrops of most live music stages are generally walls, maybe with some tapestries or lights to really dress things up. The TD Stage at the Peace Center Amphitheater is backed by the Reedy River and modern downtown architecture, just to mix things up a bit. The stage also plays host to a weekly summer concert series showcasing local artists, as well as a regular rotation of bigger shows featuring the lights of The Yonder Mountain String Band and St. Paul & the Broken Bones, just to name a few. The setting, atmosphere, and commitment to live music in the warmer months make it a must-visit music destination any chance you get.
Recommended for Live Music because: The Peace Center Amphitheater boasts a regular rotation of live music in one of the best settings in Downtown Greenville.
Libby's expert tip: Get your tickets early. The venue is smaller than the demand for a show and tickets tend to sell out well in advance.
In its time, the building that The Spinning Jenny calls home has hosted a grocery store, a skating rink, pro wrestling matches, and the Greer Opry House. When you step into the listening room today, however, it is hard to imagine it being anything else besides what it is right now. The space comfortably holds 500 music lovers and brings in nationally known acts like Donna the Buffalo, Drivin' & Cryin', and the Wood Brothers. The room is spacious, the acoustics are excellent, and it is the perfect venue for those that long for the days of the Handlebar or even Asheville's Orange Peel.
Recommended for Live Music because: The Spinning Jenny is The largest and most traditional listening room in the Upstate.
Brett's expert tip: Keep an eye on the calendar, the big shows don't happen every weekend but when they do, they are the types of acts that tend to sell out in a hurry.
The Radio Room is the type of place that would see the term "dive bar" as a little too highfalutin for its tastes. That being said, at least their current location on Poinsett Highway has windows and ceilings higher than your basement's, things the original location on Pleasantburg Drive lacked. More importantly, the thing they have always had is live music at least four or five nights a week and as an eclectic lineup, as you will find anywhere. You are as likely to find a quiet, folky, singer/songwriter on the marquee as you are to find a face-melting hardcore punk or metal band. Most of the featured acts are regional and nationally touring artists grinding out life on the road from one dive to the next, making their performances all the more honest and satisfying night after night.
Recommended for Live Music because: The Radio Room features the most shows with the most diverse talent you will find anywhere.
Brett's expert tip: Don't worry about the tiny parking lot, the Dollar General has plenty next door.