When I say Nashville, country music might be the first thing that pops in your mind. You might visualize cowboy hats, worn-in boot heels, and western shirts as far as the eye can see. But I’m here to tell you that Nashville, like most cities, happens to be just a little bit harder to pin down than that. For one thing, we’ve got one of the southeast’s biggest musical secrets and this one has nothing to do with honky-tonks or pop country celebrities. Spread the good news friend because Nashville is home to the largest free, multi-day music festival within 500 square miles.
Every year as the overheated southern summer begins to wain, thousands of Nashvillians and visitors to music city converge on Public Square Park downtown and enjoy Live On The Green, a completely free, (yes free!) music festival featuring national touring artists and local up-and-comers alike. There are rows of food trucks, multiple stages and a giant green space to sit and take in the sounds of artists like Gary Clark Jr., Alabama Shakes, The Head & The Heart, Cage The Elephant, and Ben Harper just to name a few from the over eleven years the festival has been bringing Nashville an end-of-summer highlight.
However, like most large gatherings, there are a few tips and tricks that will help you thrive and get the most out of this unique Nashville experience.
Live On The Green is a free festival, but of course, for a price, you can upgrade to business class and ride in style like the professional good timer you really are. Let’s face it, you’re gonna spend some cash living it up while bobbing your head to Amanda Shires and Grace Potter. By the time Yacht Rock Revue sets sail and you’re really feeling loose, you’ll have realized almost everything you just purchased is actually available for free in the VIP tent. Take it from me, invest in yourself up front! Grab those limited VIP passes and soak in the best views on the green, all while enjoying complimentary drinks and some of Nashville’s best catering options.
Claim your Turf
Ok, so maybe VIP isn’t in your budget or simply not your thing. You’re a figure of the people, I get it! In that case, it pays well to show up early and stake your spot on the green with a blanket and some friends. Unlike giant festivals like Bonnaroo or Coachella, Live On The Green packs in a crowd but there is typically still space to spread out and enjoy the music without constantly bumping into your fellow festival-goers. The key is to set up camp early to get the view you want and sit back and relax as the sun slowly sets in the west, right behind the main stage. Pro Tip: Hilton guests and Hilton Honors Members get exclusive access to an early Happy Hour on the green, so not only will you get one of the best spots for the show, you’ll be saving some money that you can use later for tacos at one of the dozens of food trucks.
Bring the Essentials
This one is key. You’re not hitting the Appalachian Trail here, so just keep it minimal. A few necessities can go a long way. Bring some kind of mosquito protection, this is Tennessee in late summer after all. Live On The Green hits that time of year in Nashville where it might be 99 degrees and it might cool off to a nice 60, who knows! So dress for heat but bring a blanket to sit on the lawn that you can use late night in the event a cool breeze comes in just as Todd Snider starts telling jokes between songs. Oh yea, always carry some cash. When the evening on the green ends, the downtown night is still young! You may find yourself on Broadway watching the hottest guitar slinger in town and in Nashville, we always, I mean always, tip the band.
Live On The Green is a truly unique Nashville thing and If you find yourself here during the festival, you’d be shorting yourself big time by not walking down and checking it out. Sure, we have country music, we have hot chicken, we have streets filled with honky-tonks and a broken heart for every empty beer bottle. But Nashville also has an incredible sense of community and depth. Thanks to Nashville’s longest-running independent radio station, Lightning 100, we have a festival that celebrates that with a wide variety of music and food, mostly a fresh break from the twang and boot-scootin’ of our country identity.
Oh yea, and the entire thing is free.