What do Kelsea Ballerini, Paul McCartney, Orville Peck and Lil Wayne all have in common? Each one performed on stage in Knoxville this past year.
That’s a fact that is music to the ears of concert goers like me. Let’s start with a little background: my dad took my brother and me to our first concert here in Knoxville when I was just 12 years old (my brother was 9; God love dad for starting us out young). Joan Jett opened for Cheap Trick at the Knoxville Civic Coliseum for a show that was part of the 1982 World’s Fair Celebration. I grew up loving music. At that point, I knew I loved it live.
My brother and I relived that moment this past year when Cheap Trick returned to Knoxville to play the Tennessee Theatre; an example of how performers and bands love to play here… and come back.
Concert and Live Music History in Knoxville
The city has a history of iconic shows, including three stadium concerts at Neyland Stadium: The Jackson’s Victory Tour (1984), Kenny Chesney (2003) and Garth Brooks (2019). Garth’s concert was the final stop on his Stadium Tour and broke the Neyland Stadium and state of Tennessee attendance records for a single concert event. Following that performance, Vivid Seats named Knoxville as the 2020 Concert City of the Year.
And the momentum keeps building. In February 2023, Knoxville was named one of the nation’s Top 50 Concert Markets by Pollstar. The destination moved to #41 on this list from #97 in 2022 giving Knoxville the single largest jump in the country.
So Why are Concerts in Knoxville So Great?
Start with the city itself. You don’t really have to live here to attend the concerts here. Knoxville is an easy drive from a number of cities like Atlanta, Nashville, Greenville and Lexington. McGhee Tyson Airport (TYS) is just 20 minutes from the major concert venues and, thanks to international air service in Nashville, Knoxville is literally one stop from cities around the globe. And it’s clear that concert goers don’t mind making the trip! Tickets for Garth’s Neyland Stadium concert sold in all 50 states and 11 countries, including Canada, Ireland, Australia, the UK and Mexico. To be fair, it’s not just the stadium shows that draw in long-haul visitors. I met a couple who flew in from California SPECIFICALLY for the Bruce Hornsby and the Range concert at the Bijou Theatre in March 2022. And that leads me to the venues.
Garth Brooks at Neyland Stadium
Knoxville’s Concert Venues & Live Music Scene
You’ll find some amazing large performance halls here, with booking arms including ASM Global, OVG360 and Live Nation. These partnerships contribute to the collective success of Knoxville’s live music scene. Check any of these websites right now and you’ll find touring acts representing all genres of music:
- Tennessee Theatre
- Bijou Theatre
- Thompson-Boling Arena
- Knoxville Civic Coliseum and Auditorium
- Mill and Mine
Best of all, each of these venues is located downtown, making your plans for pre- and post-concert not just easy, but part of the incredible concert experience in Knoxville! Many of the city’s finest hotels are blocks from the concerts, each one offering its own amenities ranging from local coffee shops and restaurants to rooftop bars, a rooftop pool, one divine little speakeasy and a foot soak sanctuary – great after a night standing on your feet at a show). With everything so close by, you can enjoy an amazing dinner, some local beer or cocktails, and go to the show knowing you can easily get back to Market Square or the Old City afterwards for a rooftop night cap or, if you’re game, MORE live music! Yep. You can always find that in Knoxville.
Where to Enjoy Live Music in Knoxville
Other similar-sized cities have plenty of successful cover bands, and Knoxville has its share, too, but few cities have as many venues where artists are expected to perform original material. There’s not a single night in the week when you can’t go out and hear great local or touring performers in Knoxville. Here are just a few of the venues that regularly host local talent:
- The Pilot Light
- Preservation Pub
- Scruffy City Hall
- Open Chord
- Barley’s Taproom and Pizzeria
- Ale Rae’s
- Boyd’s Jig & Reel
- The Concourse
- Bistro at the Bijou
Do I have tickets for an upcoming show in Knoxville? Oh, you can bet I do. Hope to see you there.