Expert Tips


Greenville's 10 Best Places to Hear Live Music

When you think about music towns in the Southeast, Asheville and Charleston are often brought up as places with great venues and thriving music scenes. Greenville, however, is quietly making a name for itself with a host of venues of all sizes and shapes hosting music on a regular basis. We have full-scale listening rooms hosting nationally touring household names, smaller venues bringing in regional and nationally touring artists on the rise, and tons of smaller stages where you can immerse yourself in the local talent pool.

Each of these venues plays an important role in Greenville’s music scene and caters to specific music lovers’ tastes. Whether you are looking for an intimate sit down performance paired with a fancy cocktail at Rainer's, a good old fashioned jam band at Gottrocks, or an ear-blistering evening of rock, punk, or metal at The Radio Room, Greenville has just the place waiting for you.  


Quest Brewing Company
Photo courtesy of Brett Barest

You can't talk about live music venues without mentioning the growing number that are popping up due to the growth of the craft beer industry. It is no secret that breweries like to host live music and Quest Brewing Company is a shining example of that. They have an outside stage with plenty of green space for large outdoor shows, a small stage in the tasting room for more intimate performances, and they will often split the difference by setting up in the brewhouse itself. They host live music every Friday inside year round and their Thursday Night Concert Series brings in talent from across the Southeast all Spring and Summer long. Special events and festivals are all regular occurrences meaning you can always get a side of craft beer with your next live show.

Recommended for Live Music because: Quest takes their live music calendar as seriously as their beer.

10Best's expert tip: Park anywhere but the pool hall across the street.

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Saluda River Yacht Club
Photo courtesy of Saluda River Yacht Club

While not technically Greenville, the Saluda River Yacht Club is only 15 minutes from Downtown and is worth a visit, especially during the summer months. From the street, it looks like an unwelcoming biker bar but the outside space behind it is as inviting as it gets. The Saluda River rolls lazily next to a huge outdoor space and a stage big enough for local artists on a sunny Sunday afternoon. It is a singer/songwriter's paradise - both for the artist and the listener - and you don't even need an actual yacht to join in the fun (you can, however, rent a tube for a lazy float to round out your day).

Recommended for Live Music because: Live music sounds better when performed outdoors and next to a river. It's science.

10Best's expert tip: Go in the warmer months for the full experience

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West End
Photo courtesy of Rainer's

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.

Libby'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.

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Blues Boulevard Jazz
Photo courtesy of Blues Boulevard

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.

Libby's expert tip: Bring cash for the cover at the door.

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North Pleasantburg
Photo courtesy of Gottrocks

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.

Libby's expert tip: Don't blink or you'll miss it - you could drive past it every day and not know it's there.

Read more about Gottrocks →

The Firmament
Photo courtesy of The Firmament

The youngest venue on this list, The Firmament has quickly earned a reputation as a place to catch the next big show. No genre is off the table as a quick glance at their calendar will reveal artists ranging from rock and bluegrass to hip-hop and electronic and everything in between. They have also cornered the market on 1990's nostalgia by bringing in acts such as Bone Thugs & Harmony and Nonpoint while still making plenty of time for the up and comers on the modern rock scene. There are not a lot of reasons to venture out into the untamed wild that is Woodruff Road on a Friday or Saturday evening but The Firmament holds a place at the top of that very short list.

Recommended for Live Music because: The Firmament is a big venue putting on big-name shows week in and week out

10Best's expert tip: Approach from I-85 or Garlington Road to minimize you Woodruff Road experience.

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The Velo Fellow
Photo courtesy of The Velo Fellow

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.

10Best's expert tip: Their whiskey menu is outstanding but you still have to try their craft beer brewed on site.

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Smiley's Acoustic Cafe
Photo courtesy of Smiley's Acoustic Cafe

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)

Libby's expert tip: Weekends offer two shows a night - an early show for happy hour and late one for the night owls.

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North Main
The Radio Room
Photo courtesy of The Radio Room

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, 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.

Libby's expert tip: Don't worry about the tiny parking lot - the Dollar General has plenty next door.

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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.

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Meet Brett Barest

Brett Barest is a freelance writer in Greenville, South Carolina that has watched the city grow from cow pastures and boarded up buildings to the tourist destination it has become today. He...  More About Brett