Music legend Elton John once said, "Music has healing power. It has the ability to take people out of themselves for a few hours." Across the United States, there are several cities that are known for their vibrant music presence. Whether its country, rock and roll, or blues that feeds your soul, these cities are some of the best places in the world for music lovers.
Music City. The Country Music Capital of the World. No matter what you call it, there is no question that Nashville is the epicenter of country music. Home of The Grand Ole Opry, the state's capital is where aspiring country artists go to pursue their dreams and where many country legends have found their big break.
A visit to lower Broadway, aka Honky-tonk Highway, is one of the best ways to experience live music in the city. The street is lined with honky-tonk bars and has a constant flow of live music until 3 a.m. The street is known as the place where legends like Willie Nelson and Kris Kristofferson got their start. It has also been good to recent stars, including Dierks Bentley and Gretchen Wilson.
The Country Music Hall of Fame and Ryman Auditorium are excellent ways to learn about the city's musical roots, and Bluebird Cafe is where you will find dozens of songwriters performing. If you want to enjoy a country music festival, you can't beat the CMA Fest, which takes place every year in June.
New Orleans, Louisiana
New Orleans is regarded as the birthplace of jazz. Known for its raucous festivals like Mardi Gras and the Jazz and Heritage Festival, the city knows how to throw a party. The city's French Quarter echos with jazz, blues, and reggae. Bourbon Street is the center of the city's nightlife and is where you will find the New Orleans Music Legends Park, the Hard Rock Cafe, and Skully'z Recordz.
The city has birthed some massive legends in music, including Louis Armstrong and Fats Domino. If you're visiting the city, you can't miss a visit to Preservation Hall. The Hall is rich with history and still hosts performances. The venue is popular, so if you're looking to see a show, you need to get there early.
Austin is known as the live music capital of the world. There have been many stories as to how the city got that title, but one reporter writes that it was a simple search for a slogan to use in an ad that garnered Austin its title. To bring more considerable attention to Austin, a group from the chamber of commerce decided to take out an ad in Billboard. When it came to choosing a slogan, they agreed that they would see just how many live music places they could find in the city. After adding up everything, they found that there were 70 locations within the city to see live music. This, they determined, was enough to deem Austin the live music capital of the world. The ad ran in Billboard with the slogan across the bottom, and Austin has held the title ever since.
While its origin story may have been a fluke, the city has embraced its title. The city now boasts over 250 live music venues. Popular spots include The White Horse, Mohawk, and The Continental Club. As for live music festivals, the Austin City Limits Music Festival and South By Southwest draw music lovers from around the country. The Austin City Limits Festival is one of the biggest music festivals in the country and takes place over two consecutive weekends, featuring big-name stars as well as up-and-coming artists.
Tennessee knows music. While Nashville knows country music through and through, Memphis is the birthplace of rock and roll. Some of the biggest names got their start in Memphis, with none more prominent than Elvis Presley. The King of Rock's home at Graceland is a popular attraction in the city, as is Sun Studio, where he recorded his first song. The Blues Hall of Fame also calls Memphis its home.
Beale Street is arguably the heart and soul of the city's music scene and is attributed with playing a vital role in the strong blues scene in Memphis. BB King and Louis Armstrong were frequent residents of the street and the father of blues WC Handy's home on Beale Street is open to visitors. Beale Street is also where you will find the Beale Street Music Festival.
Washington state's largest city is known for its early '90s grunge scene and as the birthplace of Jimi Hendrix. And it continues to be a prolific producer of successful music acts.
Hip-hop artist Macklemore hails from Seattle, as does Death Cab for Cutie, and Modest Mouse. The city has an active festival scene with Bumbershoot, which takes place over Labor Day weekend. While the fall may be dreary, Seattle's summers often feature 70 degree days, making the city a perfect destination for a summer festival.
The city also has a wide array of live music options. A trip to Belltown or Capitol Hill is a great way to catch some of the city's up-and-coming acts. If you are looking for some music history, check out London Bridge Studio, where Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains, and Soundgarden have all had recording sessions.