Our summer intern, Elizabeth Orr, was sent out to discover just who is standing in line at The Bluebird Cafe because, if you haven’t noticed, those lines are really long these days!
As small groups of people piled under the baby blue awning, almost 40 others waited in the summer heat, hoping for their chance to snag one of the coveted few seats at The Bluebird Cafe. Passersby may look on and wonder what special event could warrant so many fans, but if you’re a local Nashvillian, you know it’s just another Wednesday night at the Bluebird.
The Bluebird Cafe is known as home to some of the greatest songwriters in country music and has been the launching pad for renowned artists such as Garth Brooks, Taylor Swift and Kenny Chesney who used the venue as a stepping stone into the limelight. But now, visitors come from all over the world to enter its doors, often not to see the specific artists but to experience the venue itself.
There are two lines that form outside The Bluebird each day: The first is to the left of the door and consists of reservation holders. There are approximately 20 tables, which are the only seats that reservations cover and reservations sell out quickly. You can purchase tickets up to 7 days in advance. However, there are an additional 25 seats at the bar and church pews in the back that are available on a first come, first serve basis. These are the seats that everyone waits hours in line for. This line forms to the right side of the door. The people with reservations are let in first and then the people without tickets are then allowed in. The number of people who actually make it in varies each night according to reservations that don’t show, but there are always at least 25 seats that are never filled by reservations. Make sense? Good!
So, who exactly are these people who wait hours on end just to step foot in the Bluebird? Well, in my two nights of visiting, I found they were definitely not locals. In fact, I only met one local, John Anderlie from Springhill, TN. He has been to the Bluebird well over 100 times over the last 13 years. “The thing that keeps me coming back to the Bluebird,” Anderlie said, “is that they continue to have great artists, a history and an ambiance that’s unbeatable.”
But the rest? Where are they coming from?
The large crowd lining up and down the street were almost entirely tourists visiting this Nashville landmark after seeing it on ABC’s hit TV show, Nashville. Bluebird Cafe manager Elliott Duke said the music venue began to see the dramatic increase in attendance almost immediately after the show first aired in 2012. “We were featured pretty prominently from the beginning of the show,” Duke said. “We were full every night before, but now that line is what’s changed. The first people were in line today at 2:00 p.m., and that is pretty typical all week.”
I met folks from Delaware, North Carolina, South Carolina, Alabama, Michigan and more, all coming to the Bluebird after watching the show Nashville.
Jason Rodnez, a student at Tennessee State, said his mom didn’t even know the Bluebird was a real place until she looked it up. “My mom and brother are here from Michigan, and this was her one request, to watch a show at the Bluebird,” Rodnez said. “I think she saw it on TV or something.”
Despite the lengthy line and summer heat, the ones who made it in said it was well worth the wait. And as a local Nashvillian who was a first timer to the Bluebird myself, I can testify that it truly is. With amazing artists and musicians sitting just a few feet away, and the intimate setting that feels like the inside of a friend’s living room, it’s the perfect place to experience the mass of authentic talent that Nashville has to offer.
So, if the Bluebird is an amazing venue with true local talent in the heart of Green Hills, then why are out-of-towners the only ones lately filling all the seats Nashvillians, get in there! A full calendar of shows is posted on The Bluebird Cafe’s website, and tickets for each performance go on sale a week in advance — but be quick! Duke said some shows sell out within the day.
If you happen to miss out on reservations and don’t want to wait in that line, then there’s still hope. The Bluebird holds a Bluebird on the Mountain concert series throughout the summer and into the fall at Vanderbilt’s Dyer Observatory. Duke said these performances are frequented by mostly all locals.
Nashville, don’t let those tourists scare you off. There’s much more than just a line at the Bluebird, there’s one-of-a-kind talent, and I cannot believe I’ve been missing out on it all these years. So, strap on your boots and visit this local gem that’s right under our noses, because you never know who’ll step into the spotlight next.