No pretension at the 5 Spot

I always think it must be my rural upbringing that makes me gravitate toward a smaller locale or venue when I’m in the city. But in the case of Nashville, I’m convinced it’s just the sheer amount of warmth and simplicity that more remote spots have to offer that is so charming.

Don’t get me wrong. Nashville as a whole is incredible. In fact, few things for me can compare to downtown nightlife. But let’s face it. Sometimes packed restaurants and crowded clubs can be a little uncomfortable, not to mention a pain to navigate through no matter how famous or well-known the place is. Sometimes you’re just not in the mood for those places.

So I find myself considering those realities as I’m sitting here at The 5 Spot in East Nashville and realize the moment I walk through the door that I have chosen wisely as far as settling on plans for the night goes.

The 5 Spot is Nashville’s perfect dive bar and live music venue. Don’t expect a boorish, highbrow environment because the place is about as rustic and down-to-earth as a neighborhood bar could be. And rustic in this case is a term of endearment, because the atmosphere isn’t in the least bit sleazy or tacky.

The homey atmosphere manifests itself through walls that are plastered with unadulterated photos and folksy artwork. The neon beer signs and uncomplicated décor make me feel a thousand miles from the city and the stress of all that commotion. Cue the “Cheers” theme song.

As the place starts to fill with people, everyone maneuvers their way to the bar which at this point begins to look like the express checkout lane at a grocery store. Most people grab their drinks and navigate their way around and outside and the process repeats with the next person.

Although beer is often the drink of choice here, The 5 Spot serves fresh coffee and other non-alcoholic beverages. Food is also a staple here as it is in any neighborhood bar. The kitchen is open until 2:30 a.m. and for $6, The 5 Spot gives you free reign to customize your own sandwich from a variety of meats, cheeses and vegetables. They also serve classics such as pizza as well as platters like hummus and pita.

It’s a little past 9 p.m. and local rock band Penicillin Baby is about to start their set. The beer taps are going full force, and the sound of clanging glasses and conversation radiate throughout the place. From the outdoor patio, smoke billows away and across the street as people laugh and settle in while others collectively come back inside for the live music.

I overhear a gentlemen next to me at the bar say, “They were playing swing music last time I was here. I’m glad I gave this place a second chance and came back though. He seems delighted that more alternative bands have gigs here tonight, which is no surprise to me. All his tattoos and the Pabst Blue Ribbon in his hand suggests he probably isn’t the biggest fan of swing music.

Of course, I’m sure everyone has their own opinion on swing music. And I’ll be the defender of swing in this case because it reflects the diversity and variety of The 5 Spot. Every night here has something different to offer to people with different tastes.

I chat with him for a few minutes, and he tells me he is from Chattanooga, which is roughly 200 miles away from Nashville and is in town for the weekend to attend a conference. I ask why he chose to come to The 5 Spot as opposed to somewhere downtown. “The atmosphere,” he tells me. “I’m in the city, but I’m not in the city. I love small places like this, and I love live music. Best of both worlds.”

I understand exactly where he’s coming from. There is a serious moment when I’m in this place for a while that I forget downtown Nashville is only two miles away. One 10 minute drive, and I’m back in the urban bustle. For now though, I’m more than happy listening to a band from the local rock ‘n’ roll scene and feeling good in this comfortable dive.

The 5 Spot is located at 1006 Forrest Ave. and is open 8 p.m. to 3 a.m. every night for those 21 years and older.