A Visitors Guide to IBMA World of Bluegrass, Sept. 26-30 in Raleigh, N.C.
Thursday, August 24, 2023, 1pm by visitRaleigh
It's been a decade now since the world's largest urban bluegrass music festival—plus all the extra fun that comes along with it—first made soundwaves in Raleigh in 2013. The arrival of a toe-tappin', banjo-strummin' week of non-stop bluegrass in downtown Raleigh has been one of the most anticipated times of the year in the City of Oaks ever since—the 11th annual IBMA World of Bluegrass week will be held Sept. 26-30 this year.
The International Bluegrass Music Association brings their business conference, along with the world's most talented bluegrass musicians, to Raleigh during this week. Those musicians then perform in clubs, on street corners and in hotel lobbies—anywhere they can find a jam session, scheduled or impromptu.
The Bluegrass Ramble is a mid-week affair of bluegrass takeovers across a handful of downtown Raleigh music venues, and the "biggest night in bluegrass"—the IBMA Bluegrass Music Awards—is held on Thursday night at the Martin Marietta Center for the Performing Arts (previously named the Duke Energy Center).
The week is then capped off with downtown Raleigh's biggest annual event, IBMA Bluegrass Live! powered by PNC, a Friday and Saturday free street festival that sets up five stages of music, a beer lounge, art market, food trucks and more.
The ticketed Main Stage at Red Hat Amphitheater will feature The Del McCoury Band, Molly Tuttle & Golden Highway, Kruger Brothers play Doc Watson (with special guest Jerry Douglas), The Po’ Ramblin’ Boys featuring Bobby Osborne and more of the genre's biggest stars (tickets are on sale now). As many as 200,000 people have attended the two-day event in years past!
What and when is the Bluegrass Ramble?
An important platform for introducing new artists and music to big audiences, the IBMA Bluegrass Ramble is a series of more than 75 scheduled bluegrass performances on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday evenings (Sept. 26-28), taking place at several venues in downtown Raleigh—Lincoln Theatre, The Pour House Music Hall, Jimmy V's Osteria + Bar and the Raleigh Convention Center.
The Bluegrass Ramble is a ticketed event—it's $25-$30 to get access to all performances for one day, or $50-$60 for access to all performances across the three-night jam.
Most of the lineup and schedule—featuring Alex Leach, Golden Shoals, Into The Fog, Wyatt Ellis and many more—has been unveiled here.
Are the IBMA Bluegrass Music Awards open to the public?
Yes, the 34th Annual IBMA Bluegrass Music Awards presented by Yamaha will take place on Thurs., Sept. 28 at 7:30pm at the Martin Marietta Center for the Performing Arts. The awards recognize outstanding achievement and pioneering efforts in the genre, and feature special collaborations by some of bluegrass' biggest stars, plus memorable moments like the Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame induction ceremonies (there are three inductees for 2023—Sam Bush, Wilma Lee Cooper and David Grisman).
Hosted by Ketch Secor and Molly Tuttle, the event is open to the public with tickets are on sale now starting at $40.
When does the free street festival—IBMA Bluegrass Live! powered by PNC—take place?
IBMA Bluegrass Live! powered by PNC takes place on Fri., Sept. 29 and Sat., Sept. 30.
Music kicks off at noon on both days, with five free stages of music plus two jam tents in full swing until 11pm. Music on the Main Stage at Red Hat Amphitheater starts at 5pm both days.
You can find detailed music schedules for the street stages here, or on the official IBMA World of Bluegrass app (available for iOS and Android).
Are tickets needed for the Main Stage at Red Hat Amphitheater?
There is a very limited amount of free, general admission seating available at Red Hat Amphitheater on Friday and Saturday (first come, first served), but attendees hoping to catch the likes of Jerry Douglas, Missy Raines & Allegheny with Alison Brown, Molly Tuttle & Golden Highway, Mighty Poplar, The Del McCoury Band and more are strongly encouraged to purchase tickets for guaranteed entry.
Tickets for reserved seating are available for purchase. A one-day pass is $60 for the general public, or a two-day pass starts at $120.
Who is performing on the Main Stage?
The full lineup of performers at Red Hat Amphitheater for IBMA Bluegrass Live! powered by PNC includes The Del McCoury Band; Molly Tuttle & Golden Highway; Kruger Brothers play Doc Watson (with special guest Jerry Douglas); Mighty Poplar; The Po’ Ramblin’ Boys featuring Bobby Osborne; Missy Raines & Allegheny with special guest Alison Brown; Michael Cleveland & Flamekeeper; Jake Blount, Kaia Kater & Tray Wellington; and AJ Lee & Blue Summit.
Set times for Friday:
- 5-5:30pm: Kids on Bluegrass
- 5:55-6:40pm: AJ Lee & Blue Summit
- 7:05-8:05pm: Michael Cleveland & Flamekeeper
- 8:30-9:30pm: Mighty Poplar
- 10-11pm: The Del McCoury Band
Set times for Saturday:
- 5-5:45pm: Missy Raines & Allegheny (with special guest Alison Brown)
- 6:10-6:55pm: Jake Blount, Kaia Kater & Tray Wellington
- 7:20-8:05pm: The Po' Ramblin Boys
- 8:30-9:30pm: Kruger Brothers play Doc Watson (with special guest Jerry Douglas)
- 10-11pm: Molly Tuttle & Golden Highway
Is food and beer available? Is there a festival map?
Yes, food trucks and beer sales will be available throughout the festival footprint. Map can be seen below.
Where should I stay? What are my hotel options?
Hotels in downtown Raleigh are filling up quickly. See this page for information on hotels in downtown Raleigh if you are registered for the business conference, or see all of your accommodations options here.
What else should I do in downtown Raleigh during my visit?
Outside of official festival happenings, look out for local businesses celebrating bluegrass with special activations, including live music at Clyde Cooper's BBQ for its Pig Pickin', Sept. 27-30. See the schedule and get more information here! And Jimmy V's Osteria + Bar is hosting a bluegrass stage, Sept. 29, noon-9pm, and Sept. 30, 11am-9pm, featuring 21 bands, including The US Navy Band Country Current, Tennessee Bluegrass Band, Lorraine Jordan & Country Grass and more.
More suggestions on things to do in downtown Raleigh to get you started:
- Eat barbecue at Clyde Cooper's BBQ, Sam Jones BBQ, Longleaf Swine and The Pit;
- Visit the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, North Carolina Museum of History and the just-opened North Carolina Freedom Park;
- Grab a brew at Crank Arm Brewing, Raleigh Times Bar, Brewery Bhavana and Burial Beer Co. Taproom;
- Shop for local goods and gifts at DECO Raleigh, Black Friday Market, The Green Monkey and Videri Chocolate Factory;
- Take in views from Wye Hill Kitchen & Brewing, 10th and Terrace, The Willard Rooftop Lounge and Highgarden;
- Splurge on special meals at St. Roch Fine Oysters + Bar, Poole's Diner, Bida Manda, Oak Steakhouse and Humble Pie;
- Sip on after-dinner drinks at Fox Liquor Bar, Foundation, Circa 1888 and The Haymaker.
Need more ideas? Swing by the Visitor Information Center at 500 Fayetteville St. in downtown Raleigh to chat with an expert about your needs and interests!
You can find all the information you need about World of Bluegrass and IBMA Bluegrass Live! powered by PNC at worldofbluegrass.org.
More upcoming events in Raleigh, N.C.
- Aerosmith, Sept. 24
- Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats, Sept. 27
- Zac Brown Band, Oct. 5
- 95th Annual Wendell Harvest Festival, Oct. 7
- Triangle Oktoberfest, Oct. 6-7
- North Carolina Theatre presents Beautiful: The Music of Carole King, Oct. 10-15
- Carolina Hurricanes opening night: vs. Ottawa, Oct. 11
- SAS Championship, Oct. 13-15
- Hum Sub Diwali, Oct. 14
- N.C. State Fair, Oct. 12-22
Header photo by Rob Laughter; Ramble and Awards photos by Willa Stein; Red Hat Amphitheater photos by Todd Gunsher and Dan Schram
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