“Independent music venues are all struggling, but there’s still such a love for music and what it provides to the community,” says Chris Blair, the owner of the Listening Room in Nashville. The music venue, bar, and restaurant just south of Broadway has provided a stage for up-and-coming singer-songwriters over the years such as Chris Stapleton, Keith Urban, Carly Pearce, and Brett Young. “Our only rule is that everything played on stage was written by the person playing it,” Blair says. But in March, the coronavirus pandemic put a stop to concerts across the country, silencing Nashville’s—and the Listening Room’s—iconic sound.
“I needed music in my life, and I needed something to do,” Blair says of the weeks following the initial shutdown. “So, I started going live on Instagram every night, bringing in different musicians to play with me.” His inbox soon flooded with emails about how his impromptu shows made listeners feel just a little less isolated. Now, although the venue has reopened with about 40 percent capacity, the Listening Room has launched ten-dollar live stream concerts for its guests who don’t feel comfortable coming to see a live show.
Since opening in 2006, the spot has made its name not only on music and a state-of-the-art sound system, but on a creative food and drink menu with highlights including a turkey apple sandwich and a sangria named for Dolly Parton. Among Blair’s favorite offerings is the hot toddy, reminiscent of the backyard cider he’d drink as a child—but kicked up with amaro and vermouth. “As an artist myself, a hot toddy is my go-to drink before a show,” he says. “I wanted to create a spin on that, bringing the two worlds together, mixing flavors and topping it with foam and cinnamon, the way I remember sipping cider at home with my family.”
Make a couple drinks to share, and then settle in for the live stream. It’ll feel like you’ve got a front row seat.