Sometimes the best way to get to know a city is to slink into one of its indie music havens and sit down for a listen. And in Atlanta, there are venues new and old (some even recently resurrected) where you can hear genres ranging from bluegrass to punk.
The Tabernacle, 152 Luckie St NW
The colorfully patterned and quirky Tabernacle, located smack in the middle of downtown, offers an intimate music hall experience and some well-established bands (not to mention that sublime weathered-concert-venue odor). The circa-1910 structure originally functioned as a church with a 4,000-strong congregation that eventually left for a new site in the 1980s. After sitting empty for more than a decade, the building was resurrected as a House of Blues space for the 1996 Atlanta-hosted Olympic Games, and has lived on as a music magnet, most recently hosting acts like Sublime, Thrice, Father John Misty, Santigold and Megadeth. (Quick note: You’ll want to buy tickets in advance.)
Venkman’s, 740 Ralph McGill Blvd
This small live music venue/fine-dining establishment opened in the fall of 2015 in Atlanta’s Old Fourth Ward. And it offers the unique experience of sitting down for a nice meal while taking in an intimate show. Launched by chef Nick Melvin (of Doux South Pickles fame) and the two frontmen for Atlanta’s beloved 1970s cover band, Yacht Rock Revue, Nicholas Niespodziani and Peter Olson, it’s just the kind of kooky partnership to make Atlantans smile. The live music, curated by Olson and Niespodziani, runs the gamut: rock, soul, bluegrass and even salsa. The cuisine is Southern-inspired — roasted Georgia trout, shrimp and rice grits, and cast-iron fried chicken.
Grocery on Home, 609 Home Ave
For the most intimate of music listening experiences, look no further than Grocery on Home in Atlanta’s historic Grant Park neighborhood, where shows take place in a tiny restored grocery furnished with vintage arm chairs and sofas for an audience of no more than 50 people. To attend a show, you must RSVP on Grocery on Home’s Facebook page. There’s no price for admission (and it’s BYOB), but they do pass around a box for donations, which are picked up by the artists. Jon Batiste, Jerron “Blind Boy” Paxton, Jim White and Ben Sollee have all played the space.
Superica, 99 Krog St
This “Mex-Tex” restaurant, opened in March 2015, is one of chef Ford Fry’s many successful Atlanta ventures, created with partner chef Kevin Maxey and intended to echo the live music/Tex-Mex digs of Austin, Texas. The restaurant is situated inside the bustling Krog Street Market, a food market accessible from the Atlanta Beltline’s Eastside Trail in Inman Park. And in addition to flowing margaritas and chile con queso, it features an elevated stage for live music in a vibrant atmosphere. Don’t be surprised if a bluegrass band takes the stage.
Northside Tavern, 1058 Howell Mill Rd NW
Don’t be dissuaded by the concrete block façade and the bars on the windows; the blues played inside this dive is sure to stir your soul. The tiny bar — which has been stealing people’s hearts since 1972 — is located in West Midtown, an area just west of downtown that used to be all factories and warehouses and is now more upscale shopping and restaurants.