North Carolina Spring and Summer Music Festival Guide
It happens every year… a long stretch of weekends that begins slowly in the early spring, crescendoes at the height of summer and continues even as autumnal fire sets into the landscape.
It’s festival season in the Old North State, and if you like to drink beer and listen to music in the Carolina sunshine, then this is your favorite time of year.
Surely there are hundreds of festivals that happen every year, but for our purposes we’ve whittled it down to the ones that fall in spring and summer, that are predominantly music festivals (with a few local exceptions) and that take place in North Carolina (again, with a few exceptions that simply cannot be overlooked — FloydFest, we’re talking to you).
And as with everythign else these days, the spring and summer festival landscape is changing. This year more than a dozen annual shindigs folded up their tents due to shortages of funds, lackluster organization, poor attendance and scheduling conflicts.
But still we’ve assembled here more than 50 great festivals, ranging from tributes to one of our favorite fish (the NC Herring Festival, beginning April 2 in Jamesville) to the badass edge of rock, country and punk (Winston-Salem’s Heavy Rebel Weekender, straddling the Fourth of July like it was an Indian motorcycle) to the scores of bluegrass and Americana gatherings that pop up every weekend all across the state.
So if you;re planning to hit the festival circuit this year, start your planning right here, right now.
And happy festival season.
APRIL The gig: NC Herring Festival The site: ncherringfestival.com The place: Jamesville The buzz: Something fishy on Easter weekend One(s) to watch: Friday night headliner Craig Woolard Band Book it: April 2-4 How much: FREE (herring costs extra) ‘
The gig: Darin & Brooke Aldridge Bluegrass Festival The site: None The place: Cherryville The buzz: A nice little free festival, with camping One(s) to watch: Lots of indigenous music including JD Crowe & the New Youth, Unspoken Tradition and New Plowed Ground Book it: April 9 How much: FREE
The gig: NC Gold Festival The site: ncgold.org The place: Tom Johnson Camping Center; Marion The buzz: Thar’s gold in them there hills! Or, at least, there
used to be. One(s) to watch: Music TBA, but expect to see some fiddlers Book it: April 9-10 How much: FREE
The gig: Asheville Earth Day The place: Martin Luther King Park, Asheville The site: avlearthday.org The buzz: “[P]eople of all ages and backgrounds of the Asheville community, gathering to educate and celebrate that every person can make a difference for environmental change.” One(s) to watch: Acoustic Syndicate and the Afromotive, plus the New Mastersounds from Leeds, England who reportedly channel the Meters. Book it: April 17 How much: FREE ($25 VIP)
The gig: Spring Shakori Hills Grassroots Festival The place: Silk Hope The site: www.shakorihills.org The buzz: “A family-friendly festival of music, dance, art, and education” over four days in the country. One(s) to watch: More than 50 bands, but be on the lookout
for Bela Fleck, David Gans, Des Ark, Donna the Buffalo, Hammer No More the Fingers, Hobex, Holy Ghost Tent Revival, Midtown Dickens, Possum Jenkins, Rosie Ledet and Rusted Root. Book it: April 22-25 How much: $26-$100
The gig: Shine to Wine Festival The place: Downtown north Wilkesboro The site: www.downtownnorthwilkesboro.com/shinetowine The buzz: Wine, food and song, and the 3rd annual Culinary Chefs Challenge One(s) to watch: Hope you like the SHU band Book it: April 24 How much: FREE, wine tasting $15 The gig: World Beer Festival The place: Moore Square, downtown Raleigh The site: www.allaboutbeer.com The buzz: More than 250 beers from around the world gathered in one great place, from All About Beer magazine One(s) to watch: Crucial Fiya, Guta, Hot Politics, Stone Age Romeos, plus Edgecase and Brooks Wood in the VIP Tent Book it: April 24 How much: $40 morning session, advance; $50 day of event; $75 evening session, $85 day of event, VIP sold out
The gig: Merlefest The site: merlefest.org The place: Wilkesboro The buzz: The granddaddy of them all, Merlefest honors the legacy of Doc and Merle Watson featuring a few dozen bands, camping and art. One(s) to watch: This year is a killer, with Taj Mahal, Little Feat, Elvis Costello, Steve Martin with the Steep Canyon Rangers, the Lee Boys and the Avett Brothers. Book it: April 29-May 2 How much: $40-$225
The gig: BBQ Festival on the Neuse The place: Kinston The site: www.festivalontheneuse.com The buzz: Fireworks, golf tournament, street dance, pigs in costumes and the Great Neuse River Duck Race. Formerly known as simple the Festival on the Neuse, this year they’ve added barbecue! One(s) to watch: The Donald Underwood Thompson Blues Band Book it: April 29-May 2 How much: FREE
The gig: French Broad River Festival The site: frenchbroadriverfestival.com The place: Hot Springs The buzz: Named for the river, not some French broad One(s) to watch: James McMurtry & the Heartless Bastards, Snake Oil Medicine Show, Mad Tea Party, Larry Keel & Natural Bridge and lots more on two stages Book it: April 30-May 2 How much: $75
The gig: Daniel Boone Family Festival The site: danielboonefamilyfestival.com The place: Mocksville The buzz: Seriously outdated website, with little or no information regarding music, food or anything else, really, but it seems like an homage to the great woodsman and fighting man Daniel Boone One(s) to watch: Anyone in a coonskin cap Book it: May 1 How much: FREE
The gig: Ham & Yam Festival The site: downtownsmithfield.com The place: Smithfield The buzz: A tribute to the two of the state’s biggest agricultural products, featuring a Miss Ham & Yam Pageant One(s) to watch: Lineup TBA Book it: May 1-2 How much: FREE
The gig: Lake Eden Arts Festival The site: theleaf.com The place: Camp Rockmont, Black Mountain The buzz: Some trivia: Now in its 30 th year, this festival was the subject of the first article Editor Brian Clarey sold in North Carolina. One(s) to watch: Tons, including Blind Boys of Alabama, Donna the Buffalo, the Duhks, Ben Sollee, Big Sam’s Funky Nation, Charmaine Neville and lots of worldbeat stuff Book it: May 6-9 How much: $29-$94 day pass, $129-$169 weekend
The gig: Spring Folly The site: www.kernersvillespringfolly.com The place: Kernersville The buzz: Water wars, NASCAR simulator, petting zoo, antique cars and Korner’s Folly
One(s) to watch: “Kernersville Idol” talent search Book it: May 7-9 How much: FREE
The gig: Beaufort Music Festival The site: beaufortmusicfestival.com The place: The historic Beaufort waterfront The buzz: An outdoor festival in one of the state’s most charming waterfront communities One(s) to watch: Bands TBA Book it: May 7-8 How much: FREE
The gig: Mayfest The site: townofpilotmountain.com/mayfest.htm The place: Pilot Mountain The buzz: Annual Mothers Day weekend festival. One(s) to watch: Lineup TBA Book it: May 8-9 How much: FREE
The gig: Bluegrass in Wilkes The site: www.bluegrassinwilkes.com The place: Forest Edge Amphitheater; Wilkesboro The buzz: Smokey the Bear will be there One(s)to watch: TBA, but sure to include plenty of the high, lonesome stuff Book it: May 8 How much: $10 advance, $15 day of event
The gig: Dale Earnhardt Chevrolet Newton Mayfest The site: newtonmayfest.blogspot.com The place: Downtown Newton The buzz: Word is Dale himself may show One(s) to watch: A few local and high school bands, with headliners Night Moves, “good rock and beach music” and Kayne Kreek, “traditional country.”
Book it: May 15 How much: FREE
The gig: Englehard Seafood festival The site: englehardseafoodfestival.com The place Englehard: The buzz: Hold out for the Miss Seafood Pageant One(s) to watch: Headliner Spare Change Book it: May 15 How much: FREE
How much: FREE
The gig: Artsplosure The site: www.artsplosure.org The place: Moore Square; downtown Raleigh, NC The buzz: Now with two days of fun! One(s) to watch: Great lineup including Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe, the Iguanas, Tinsley Ellis and our old friend Mel Melton & the Wicked Mojos Book it: May 15-16 How much: FREE
The gig: Smilefest The site: smilefest.com The place: Jomeokee Campground, Pinnacle The buzz: A festival begun in the aftermath of the death of Grateful Dead guitarist Jerry Garcia, back after a short hiatus One(s) to watch: Headliner Michael Franti & Spearhead may be the biggest name so far, but more acts will be released at the website soon Book it: May 21-23 How much: $105
The gig: Salut! The North Carolina Wine Celebration The site: salutencwine.com The place: Downtown Winston-Salem The buzz: Just like the poster says, a celebration of Tarheel wines out in the hot sun.
One(s) to watch: Absolute ’80s plays the afterparty at Foothills Brewing Book it: May 22 How much: $20 advance, $25 day of
The gig: Li’l John’s Mountain Music Festival The site: www.littlejohnsmountainmusic.com/ The place: Cane Creek Campground, Snow Camp The buzz: “Great family-style bluegrass festival with years of tradition.” One(s) to watch: Sixteen bands, including Rhonda Vincent & the Rage, fronted by a blonde hottie in the Tanya Tucker tradition Book it: May 27-29 How much: $25-$30 a day, $75 three-day pass
The gig: Heritage Festival Weekend The site: none The place: Riverfront City Park; Bryson City, NC The buzz: A log-sawing contest! One(s) to watch: Some really great homegrown gospel mixed with Highland pipe and drums Book it: May 28-29 How much: FREE
The gig: NC Potato Festival The site: ncpotatofestival.com The place: Elizabeth City The buzz: “The North Carolina Potato Festival is a family festival celebrating one of Northeast The gig: NC Wine Festival North Carolina’s largest crops.” The site: ncwinefestival.com One(s) to watch: Lineup TBA, but there’s sure The place: Tanglewood Park, Winston-Salem to be plenty of French fries The buzz: A wine buzz, of course!
Book it: May 15 One(s) to watch: Chairmen of the Board, the
Allison King Band and the Plaids Book it: May 29 How much: $20 advance, $25 at the gate
The gig: Fiddler’s Grove Festival The site: fiddlersgrove.com The place: Fiddler’s Grove Campground; Union Grove The buzz: “The oldest continuous ole time fiddler’s competition in North America” One(s) to watch: The certified Old Time Fiddlers, open to musicians over 55 who play only by ear and have had no formal training. Book it: May 28-30 How much: $35 adults, $15 children; camping available
The gig: Party on the Plank The site: partyontheplank.com The place: High Point The buzz: “Each week Party on the Plank will feature a Center Stage with two smokin’ local bands from different genres, an Art Gallery with numerous local artists, a Food Court with multiple restaurants, a Local Market with tons of local retailers, a Beverage Center with breweries, wineries and sodas, an interactive City Vision Center to share ideas and hear the latest about High Point revitalization and a Kid’s Activity Center run by local churches.” One(s) to watch: Emcee Brian Clarey, editor of YES! Weekly, on June 3 Book it: Every Thursday in June and July How much: FREE
The gig: Groverfest 2010 The place: Millstone Farm; Davidson The site: www.groverfest.com The buzz: It’s all about the music. One(s) to watch: Greensboro band the Mantras, who thrive in a festival atmosphere Book it: June 4-6 How much: $35 pre-sale, $45 after April 15
The gig: Ocrafolk Music and storytelling Festival The site: ocrafolkfestival.org The place: Ocracoke Island The buzz: “The festival is a life-enriching experience, full of joy and sharing… a communion of sorts, bringing together musicians, Ocracoke residents and tourists.” One(s) to watch: Lineup TBA, but last year’s saw 28 bands worth of gospel, folk, bluegrass, Americana and rock, along with clogging and storytelling. Book it: June 4-6 How much: FREE
The gig: Galax Leaf & String Festival The site: Galaxfestival.com The place: Downtown Galax, Va.
The buzz: Bluegrass and old-time mountain music on two downtown stages and a headliner at the historic Rex Theater One(s) to watch: “[A] full sampling of local music, luthiers, arts, crafts and regional and national authors on hand to meet and entertain you.” Book it: June 11-12 How much: FREE, some ticketed events
The gig: Washington Summer Festival The site: wbcchamber.com The place: Washington The buzz: Ronald McDonald will be there One(s) to watch: Just one act, yet to be named Book it: June 11-12 How much: FREE
The gig: Charlie Poole Music Festival The site: Charlie-poole.com The place: Eden Fairgrounds, Eden The buzz: Three days of pickin’, grinnin’ and fiddlin’ in honor of the legacy of mill worker and banjoist Charlie Poole One(s) to watch: TBA, but plenty of competitions and $5,000 in prizes Book it: June 11-13 How much: $10-$20
The gig: Twin City RibFest The site: Twincityribfest.com The place: Dixie Classic Fairgrounds; Winston-Salem The buzz: Four days and nights of music and meat off the bone for this award-winning festival, now in its sixth year One(s) to watch: Mixed-bag lineup of country, swamp funk, jazz and rock, personified neatly by headliner Cyril Neville. Book it: June 10-13 How much: $7, kids free
The gig: The Magnolia Baroque Festival The site: magnoliabaroque.com The place: Various venues; Winston-Salem The buzz: “[V]irtuosic performances of Baroque orchestral, solo, chamber music and dance celebrating the theme, Triumph of Love.” One(s) to watch: Saturday night’s Virtuosic Bach, featuring an all-star lineup of festival performers taking on Johann Sebastian’s “most thrilling and profound music” Book it: June 16-20 How much: $25/day, $20 seniors, $10 students
The gig: North Carolina State Bluegrass Fest The site: www.cherokee-nc.com/events The place: Happy Holiday Campground; Cherokee The buzz: Wall-to-wall bluegrass in a state renowned for the form One(s) to watch: TBA, but last year saw
Rhonda Vincent & the Rage, Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver and one 90-minute set by Ralph Stanley Book it: June 17-19 How much: $30/day advance, $35 after June 9; 30day passes are $75/$85
The gig: Kernersville summerfest The site: www.kernersvillefoundation.org/summerfest The place: Kernersville Elementary School; 512 W. Mountain St. The buzz: A good old-fashioned street fair with pony rides, classic cars, a petting zoo and fireworks. One(s) to watch: The Fantastic Shakers, Craig Woolard Band and the Part-Time Party Time Band Book it: June 17-19 How much: FREE (donations accepted)
The gig: Eastern Music Festival The site: Easternmusicfestival.org The place: Various Triad locations The buzz: A huge lineup of classical musicians, conductors, small groups and orchestras along with a Fringe series that’s a little more hip One(s) to watch: We love the EMF Fringe series, which brings a different vibe to the event, but most acts are TBA Book it: June 26-July 31 How much: $9-$49, but lots of deals available at the website
The gig: Annual Southeast Old Threshers’ Reunion The site: threshers.com The place: FarmPark, Denton The buzz: “The greatest steam, gas and antique farm machinery show in the Southeast.” One(s) to watch: Plenty to see for fans of acoustic goodness Book it: June 30-July 4 How much: $13 ($6 kids)
The gig: Red, White and Bluegrass Festival The site: www.redwhiteandbluegrassfestival.com The place: Catawba Meadows Park; Morganton The buzz: A festival born of a 15-minute fireworks show on the campus of Western Piedmont Community College in the 1980s. No booze. One(s) to watch: Lots to see, including Sweet Potato Pie, the Grascals, the Del McCoury Band, Cherryholmes and a bluegrass camp for kids. Book it: July 1-4 How much: $15/day, $40 weekend pass
The gig: Fun Fourth Festival The site: funfourthfestival.org The place: Downtown Greensboro The buzz: Greensboro’s 25th annual Fourth of July celebration One(s) to watch: A big, mostly free musical weekend with the Extraordinaires and Nantucket Friday night, and the rest TBA. Book it: June 26-July 4 How much: FREE ($10 block party)
The gig: Heavy Rebel Weekender The site: Heavyrebel.net The place: The Millennium Center, Winston- Salem The buzz: Hard to pigeonhole this one, just know it’s about rock, country, punk and everything in between, plus burlesque, cars, PBR and mud wrestling. One(s) to watch: “Dexter Romweber is a god.” Book it: July 2-4 How much: $25 (one day) $70 (weekend)
The gig: Christmas in July Festival The site: Christmasinjuly.info The place: West Jefferson The buzz: Activities include a Civil War reenactment and a square dance One(s) to watch: Eleven acts, with the headliner TBA, but we’re leaning toward Jeff Little, AKA the Pianoman Book it: July 3 How much: FREE
The gig: Uncle Sam Jam The site: None The place: Oak Hollow Park, High Point The buzz: Annual Fourth of July throwdown in the Furniture City One(s) to watch: Lineup TBA Book it: July 4 How much: FREE
The gig: High Country Bluegrass Festival The site: www.highcountrybluegrassfestival.com The place: Boone The buzz: Bluegrass in the setting where it’s
meant to be heard: outdoors in the mountain sunshine One(s) to watch: Much of the lineup TBA, but headliner John Cowan is a former sideman to Bela Fleck and Sam Bush Book it: July 16-17 How much: $15-$35
The gig: Cape Fear Blues Festival The site: capefearblues.org The place: Wilmington The buzz: Blues on the beach courtesy of the Cape Fear Blues Society One(s) to watch: This one, now in its 15 th year, is still in the planning stages, but last year’s featured 10 national and local acts, plus a guitar giveaway Book it: July 23-25 How much: $TBA
The gig: FloydFest 6 The site: Floydfest.com The place: Floyd, Va. The buzz: “FloydFest is named after our onestoplight, two-block town, or rather the special essence of our town, which residents and visitors alike experience as a respite from the restless, hurried activity of our modern society, and the cookie-cutter look and feel of many, if not most, modern places.” It is not a Pink Floyd tribute festival. One(s) to watch: Possibly the best lineup of the summer, with dozens of bands including Levon Helm and his band, JJ Grey & Mofro, Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe, local heroes the Mantras and on the undercard, Cornmeal and the Pimps of Joytime Book it: July 22-25 How much: $35-$45/day, $135-$145/four-day
The gig: BeleChere The Site: belecherefestival.com The place: Downtown Asheville The buzz: “Bele chere means ‘beautiful living.’” One(s) to watch: Lineup TBA, but this one generally has a lot of hot action.
Book it: July 23-25
How much: FREE
The gig: Jamestown Swing The site: jamestownswing.com The place: Jamestown The buzz: A big street party begun by our friend Ogi Overman scheduled to coincide with the Wyndham Championship One(s) to watch: Beach music. Nothing but beach music. Book it: Aug. 14 How much: $TBA
The gig: Sneads Ferry Shrimp Festival The site: Sneadsferryshrimpfestival.com The place: Sneads Ferry The buzz: A festival with its own song, the shrimp festival features a shrimp heading/peeling contest, a parade, a Shrimp Queen pageant, fireworks and the Shrimp Ball; also has its own song (mp3 on the website) One(s) to watch: The lineup still in the early planning stages, with no announced acts as of yet Book it: Aug. 14-15 How much: $TBA
The gig: Winterville Watermelon Festival The site: Watermelonfest.com The place: Winterville The buzz: the 22 nd annual festival dedicated to that most succulent of fruits, also a “womanless beauty contest” One(s) to watch: Lineup TBA, but last year they scored Travis Tritt Book it: Aug. 26-28 How much: FREE
The gig: Blues, Brews & BBQ The site: Google says it may harm my computer The place: Charlotte The buzz: Three very important B-words crammed into one weekend One(s) to watch: Lineup TBA Book it: Sept. 10-11 How much: $TBA
The gig: Happy Valley Old-time Fiddlers’ Convention The site: happyvalleyfiddlers.com The place: Jones Farm; Lenoir The buzz: Lenoir is the place where Tom Dooley actually hung his head and cried in 1867 after being executed for murdering his neighbor, Laura Foster, who grew up on the festival site One(s) to watch: Check out the competitions, especially the ones for autoharp, Appalachian
dulcimer and mountain dance Book it: Sept. 3-5 How much: $5, $10 camping
The gig: Rock the Block The site: www.rocktheblockws.com The place: Downtown Winston-Salem The buzz: Big free street fest to celebrate the end of summer. One(s) to watch: Lineup TBA Book it: Dates TBA, but usually in mid-September How much: FREE
The gig: Festival in the Park The site: Festivalinthepark.org The place: Freedom Park, Charlotte The buzz: In its 45 th year, the festival has been ranked among the top 200 in the United States by Sunshine Artists magazine One(s) to watch: Special stages for kids, clowns, magicians and folk musicians. Big music doings on Saturday night, including Scott’s Garage, Cool King Chris and Chapel Grove Book it: Sept. 23-26 How much: FREE
The gig: Carrboro Music Festival The site: Carrboromusicfestival.com The place: Carrboro The buzz: In its 12th year, the daylong festival takes over the city with shows at such disparate venues as bars, caf’s, dance studios, garden stores and markets, as well as the venerable Cat’s Cradle. One(s) to watch: Still booking, but last year’s event saw well over a hundred acts Book it: Sept. 26