Music Tour in Raleigh, N.C.
Fed by the creative talents that range across the state of N.C. and beyond, the Raleigh area offers so much outstanding live music throughout the year, it’s nearly impossible to catalog it all. Check out the area’s live music calendar—any given week, and you’ll find scheduled performances in pubs, clubs, restaurants, coffee shops, parks, open-air stages and numerous world-class concert venues. Why not venture out and turn Raleigh’s treasury of live music offerings into an entire weekend of discovery? Below is a sampling of opportunities.
Essential festivals to plan your trip around
First, get to know the big events. Hopscotch Music Festival—called "America's (Secretly) Best Festival" and "the premiere experimental and underground festival in America"—features more than 130 bands over 3 days in venues throughout downtown Raleigh. And keep your eyes out for platinum-selling rapper and N.C. native J. Cole's Dreamville Festival, a two-day, multi-stage festival at downtown Raleigh's Dorothea Dix Park with a one-of-a-kind celebration of local culture, food and art.
Beyond downtown Raleigh
When the weather accommodates, look for outdoor, family-friendly shows, including rock, blues and more in Midtown Raleigh at North Hills' Midtown Park. And save the dates for festivals in the area's 11 municipalities surrounding Raleigh, featuring the best of local live music and touring acts. Catch live music at live music at Aviator Taphouse Gastropub and Aviator Pizzeria & BeerShop in Fuquay-Varina on weekends for a local brew and tunes.
Food and live music
A consideration would be any of the area’s restaurants that feature live music, where the choices encompass nearly every popular genre. Irregardless Café, a Raleigh staple, is known for jazz, folk and acoustic artists. The Big Easy in the heart of downtown Raleigh and Woody’s at City Market in downtown's City Market take the energy level up a notch with rock, blues and pop music entertainers that get things going a little later.
Also, check the line-up at O'Malley's Pub & Restaurant near Crabtree Valley Mall, with live music every night of the week and twice on Sundays, and in Apex, Abbey Road Tavern & Grill and Doherty’s Irish Pub & Restaurant.
The big show
Located a short drive from downtown, The Ritz is a Raleigh stalwart that has survived through several incarnations, has been upgraded by its new owner, House of Blues/Live Nation, and is back as one of the area’s best mid-sized concert halls. Likewise, downtown’s Lincoln Theatre, once a 1940s-era movie house, also hosts some of the best national and regional touring acts, some of which prefer to play Lincoln Theatre on consecutive nights rather than book a larger venue.
The amphitheater at the North Carolina Museum of Art, officially named Joseph M. Bryan, Jr., Theater in the Museum Park, has also become one of the most popular settings in the area for music fans and touring bands alike, including Wilco, Joan Baez and Indigo Girls, Jason Isbell and Sheryl Crow.
Anchoring downtown, with a stunning backdrop against Raleigh’s growing skyline, Red Hat Amphitheater attracts sold-out crowds for major new acts and touring superstars such as Government Mule, Goo Goo Dolls, Blondie, Mary J. Blige, Lauren Hill and Nas. Another world-class outdoor concert venue, Koka Booth Amphitheatre in Cary, attracts similar popular acts, such as Eddie Money, Alison Krauss and David Grey.
The big-ticket concerts such as Beyoncé, Bruno Mars and Ed Sheeran find their way to PNC Arena, while Coastal Credit Union Music Park at Walnut Creek, the area’s festival-sized outdoor concert venue, attracts national touring acts such as John Mayer, Luke Bryan and Green Day.
Late-night and alive
Your music adventure doesn’t end after the big concert. In downtown Raleigh you’ll find an array of live acts getting cranked up in the spirited confines of clubs like Slim’s Downtown, The Pour House Music Hall & Record Shop and Tin Roof Raleigh.
Photos: Hopscotch Music Festival, Garrett Poulos