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North Carolina is a place from which some of the biggest names in American music history have hailed, including Nina Simone, John Coltrane, and Thelonious Sphere Monk. North Carolina is still a favorite spot of musicians and music lovers alike, hosting nearly fifty annual music festivals and countless live performances at bars, cafes, and lounges every night of the week. From Charlotte to Raleigh to Asheville to Greensboro to Durham, the music plays on in North Carolina. For these reasons, concert enthusiasts will love what North Carolina brings to the ears.

North Carolina was home to some of the biggest heroes in American music.

John Coltrane, a saxophonist and composer, is one of North Carolina’s exceptional artists who changed music history. His career started with bebop and hard bop, but he developed into blues and free jazz frontiers. Alive from 1926 to 1967, his contributions expand far beyond his short years lived. Nina Simone, a singer, songwriter, pianist, arranger, and activist, played classical, jazz, blues, folk, R&B, gospel, and pop styles. In her music, she contemplated controversial social, political, cultural, and historical questions. In the 60s, songs like “Mississippi Goddamn” and “To Be Young, Gifted and Black” brought awareness to causes, and they became anthems and inspirations for activists themselves.

Other notable musicians from North Carolina include: Charlie Poole, Mary Lou Williams, Thelonious Sphere Monk, Max Roach, George Clinton, Maceo Parker, Emmylou Harris, and Corrosion of Conformity. Spanning genres, many of these artists conversed deeply with sociocultural tides of their times, mastering their instruments, and reaching out to audiences. For those looking for music in North Carolina today, this rich history cannot be denied. Local stages held these giants, and local artists are inspired by their songs.

North Carolina has around 50 music festivals each year.

With the Appalachian Mountains in the west, the Atlantic Ocean to the east, and plains in the center, North Carolina has excellent spots for music festivals. Festivals are dispersed throughout the state, in places like Clayton, Lake Junaluska, Spruce Pine, Charlotte, Creedmoor, Ashville, Black Mountain, Burlington, and Durham. Although summer is the busiest season for these music getaways, autumn is no bore.

Still to come this year are the following festivals: Bluegrass Island Festival, Shakori Hills Grassroots Festival, Marcus King Band Family Reunion, Ol’ Front Porch Music Festival, Bascom Lamar Lunsford Festival, Phoenix Fest, The Blowing Rock Music Festival, Pleasure Island Seafood Blues & Jazz Festival, Mustang Rock and Roast, Hoppin’ John Old-Time and Bluegrass Fiddlers’ Convention, Deweyfest, The LEAF, Clayton Piano Festival, Don’t Be Mean to People, Rowan Blues and Jazz Festival, Black Alternative Music Festival, Blue Ridge Bluegrass Festival, Creedmoor Music Festival, Apex Music Festival, Brewgrass Festival, The Shindig, and Balsam Range Art of Music Festival.

North Carolina’s music venues range from Rolling Stone-admired to underground.

North Carolina’s most iconic venues include The Orange Peel for eclectic and eccentric sounds; The Grey Eagle for craft beers, Mexican food, and live music from pop to punk; The Evening Muse for the “Best Place to Hear Local Music” in Charlotte; and, Cat’s Cradle for authentic, artsy, intellectual acts ranging from The Avett Brothers to Nirvana. Hidden venues are in ready supply, too. Check out Odditorium, where Asheville’s pun, hardcore, alternative, and metal scenes mesh in a dive space. Find anything from burlesque to stand up comedy to live concerts. Check out Mothlight for a mix of top notch local and international names in rock, indie, alternative, and electronica. Angel Olsen, Parquet Courts, Matthew White, Speedy Ortiz, Doc Aquatic, and Dulci Ellenberger have taken stage in recent years.

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