A! Magazine for the Arts

Crowds fill the street at Bristol Rhythm and Roots Reunion. (photo by Neil Staples)

Crowds fill the street at Bristol Rhythm and Roots Reunion. (photo by Neil Staples)

Music resounds throughout downtown Bristol

May 29, 2018

In 1927, downtown Bristol was filled with music and musicians for the 1927 Bristol Sessions, which eventually led to Bristol’s designation as the Birthplace of Country Music. More than 90 years later, downtown Bristol has added rock ‘n’ roll, Americana and other styles, but music still resounds.

Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion brings more than 45,000 people each year for a variety of music. When it began in 2001, a few thousand music lovers attended. This influx of people into downtown Bristol and the excitement about Bristol’s musical heritage helped to begin the renaissance of downtown Bristol.

The Paramount Center for the Arts, after its restoration in 1991, was a lone bastion of music in downtown Bristol.

Today, there are many places in downtown Bristol to listen to music and two outdoor concert series, " in addition to Rhythm & Roots.

Twenty-two years ago, the city of Bristol, Tennessee, began Full Moon Jam, an outdoor concert series that presents two concerts a week from May through September. The series was created to help with downtown revitalization. This year it carries a new name," Sounds of Summer.

Nineteen years ago, the cities of Bristol, Virginia and Tennessee started Border Bash. Border Bash brings bands to downtown twice a month throughout the summer.

“Border Bash is a tradition that showcases everything that makes downtown Bristol special, and that includes great live music,” said Maggie Bishop, executive director of Believe in Bristol.” Bristol’s downtown is definitely a hub for a wide variety of food, unique shopping, community events, and an all-around great place to come together with friends and family. This year Border Bash will introduce audiences to a whole new roster of talented, emerging acts as well as a few familiar favorites.”

These efforts by the cities and BR&RR set up a fertile ground for the musical richness that exists today.

O’Mainnin’s Pub has been a popular music venue for more than a decade. Bands play in this cozy neighobood pub five nights a week. The newest venue is Bloom Café and Listening Room. Blackbird Bakery offers jazz on Thursdays. Bristol Station and Studio Brew offer frequent concerts. Quaker State and Lube also offers live entertainment. There are stories about several of these venues elsewhere in the magazine.

The Birthplace of Country Music Museum offers concerts in its auditorium and live music at Farm and Fun Time at its radio station.

Downtown Bristol has undergone ups and downs since the Sessions. The efforts of the cities and Rhythm & Roots have turned downtown into a thriving music scene with a year-round tourism market, and a busy downtown filled with businesses, restaurants and more.

Catch some jazz and a pastry in downtown Bristol