Runners Up: Bijou Theater, the Square Room, the Valarium
Kind of a shoo-in in this category, the Tennessee Theatre has won many times before. But it got more national attention in 2010 than it has in any calendar year in its 82-year history, except for maybe the night back in 1940 when Glenn Miller broadcast live there. Thanks to the Big Ears festival, suddenly music writers are striving for different ways to say the Tennessee experience is like watching a show on the inside of a Fabergé egg. Sometimes you encounter an East Tennessean who has never seen the interior, and when you do it’s so weird it just leaves you speechless, as if someone were to claim they had never seen their mother’s smile. It’s been here since 1928, after all, when people got off the streetcar outside to behold this grand movie palace that occasionally offered live shows. Now it’s a full auditorium listening room that occasionally offers movies. The list of people who have performed there in recent years includes Elvis Costello, Bob Dylan, Morrissey, Lou Reed, and, soon, Al Green and Diana Ross (!). The Bijou can compete in history and acoustics, but the Tennessee provides roominess and spectacle, two full bars, chandeliers, statuary and old oil paintings, and the most ennobling bathrooms in town.