Note: Authored by David Menconi, this piece has been produced in partnership with Raleigh Arts. Menconi's next book, "Oh, Didn't They Ramble: Rounder Records and the Transformation of American Roots Music," was published in the fall of 2023 by University of North Carolina Press. His podcast, Carolina Calling, explores the history of the Tar Heel State through music.



North Hills’ Midtown Beach Music Series returns in 2024 for a 15th season with another lineup of new and old acts—every Thursday evening at Midtown Park through the end of June.

“We’re pretty proud of the tradition it’s become,” says Dawn Baker, senior events and commercial property manager at North Hills, a booming shopping and dining district in Midtown Raleigh. “Other series have come and gone over the years, but this has withstood the test of time. In talking to beach bands, it’s a well-known series. I’ve had the Embers tell me repeatedly that, next to the SOS (Society of Stranders) Conference, our series is number one on their list to be part of.”

Indeed, The Embers featuring Craig Woolard will return to close out this year's season in Raleigh on June 27.

North Hills Beach Music Series

Beach music dates back more than half a century, to jukeboxes and shag dancing at nightclubs along the North and South Carolina coast in the late 1940s. The music is usually r&b oldies, Motown as well as Stax/Volt, most of it falling in the Optimal Shag Tempo (OST) of 110 to 130 beats per minute.

Lending a touch of historical awareness and legitimacy to the Midtown Beach Music Series is the onstage presence of Gary Gibson. The owner of longtime Raleigh nightspot Loafers Beach Club and a member of the Beach Shaggers National Hall of Fame, Gibson serves as emcee for each show.

Last year’s series averaged a healthy average attendance of more than 2,300 per show, with most attendees local to the Raleigh area. But fans also came from as far away as Statesville to the west and Wilmington at the coast, according to Placer data.

“It’s become a little beach music community,” says Baker. “There’s a niche group of people that know all the songs, the hand moves, when to do the shout-outs, have their own shagging dances. It’s unique.”

One thing to keep in mind is that, since these are outdoor events, weather can be a factor. The season-opening April 11 show with North Tower Band had to be canceled.

“Sometimes it feels like Thursday’s got a target on it for weather,” Baker says.

One change to the series in the post-Covid era is that it’s no longer a free event. This is the third year with an admission charge of $5 per show, or a season pass for $35 (which represents about a 40 percent discount).

“We were trying to get our feet back under us after Covid with no sponsor money,” says Baker. “So we had to do this to raise some sort of funds. A portion of ticket sales and beverage proceeds go to our non-profit partners. The rest goes directly toward production costs.”

Shows are 6-9pm. every Thursday at Midtown Park. To purchase tickets, visit etix.com.

 

2024 Midtown Beach Music Series Lineup

  • April 18: The Catalinas
  • April 25: Liquid Pleasure
  • May 2: Blackwater Band
  • May 9: Band of Oz
  • May 16: Spare Change
  • May 23: The Chairmen of the Board
  • May 30: Too Much Sylvia
  • June 6: Jim Quick & Coastline
  • June 13: Sleeping Booty
  • June 20: Cat5 Band
  • June 27: The Embers featuring Craig Woolard

 

Where to find good eats and drinks just a few steps away

 

Photos courtesy of North Hills

 

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