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The southernmost northern state, West Virginia occupies an interesting geographic spot in the United States. With one of the smallest state populations, music culture is largely a product of rural life. The biggest cities—Charleston and Huntington—have a population below fifty thousand, a testament to how country life on the Appalachian Trail is the primary West Virginian experience. Check out this article to learn how nature-infused venues, new meets old music interpretations, and non-bluegrass counterculture make West Virginia an interesting place to take in live shows.

West Virginia provides a scenic, nature-focused backdrop for many of its venues

Music lovers come from every place, every walk of life, and every belief system. With so many dynamo venues making waves in urban spaces, it might be easy to forget that countryside listeners like to watch concerts, too. For those who fall into this group, West Virginia is an ideal destination. Because West Virginia is dominated by heavily forested land and 2/3 of the state is covered in mountains, the geography offers opportunities for music venues to be embedded in nature.

The state hosts a small number of festivals: All Good Music Festival Camp Out, Appalachian String Band Music Festival, Heritage Music Blues Fest, Vandalia Gathering, and West Virginia State Folk Festival. Most of these festivals are held in a gorgeous, remote locations. For instance, when the All Good Music Festival is in West Virginia, it is held on Marvin’s Mountaintop, a 600-acre campground in Masontown. Beyond camp-based festivals, other concert venues have found ways to weave nature into their fabric. Rendevous Lodge in Fayetteville features a series of multi-level decks with a bar overlooking the riverside. Live performers provide bluegrass, one of the most popular and crowd-pleasing genres to Appalachian crowds. For listeners who want to step out of the big city and immerse in nature-focused venues, watching concerts in West Virginia is ideal.

West Virginia celebrates Appalachian tradition in its music, with contemporary musicians blending old and new in the genre

Many West Virginia musicians take pride in marrying old and new sounds, finding strategies to balance between tradition and transformation. Some of the groups leading the way int his old meets new soundscape include The Fox Hunt, The Christian Lopez Band, The Wild Rumpus, Ona, The Boatmen, Qiet, and The Dueling Fiddlers.

With extensive classical credentials, Adam DeGraff and Russell Fallstad of The Dueling Fiddlers blends classical violin and rock. Imagine iconic rock anthems with classical chops and rustic embellishments; they do not sacrifice the intensity and feel good nostalgia of the originals. Ona updates old bluegrass by involving keyboards and plugging in to remove that acoustic sound. Laid-back but driving, the rhythm ground tremolo-twisted guitars and smooth, lyrical vocals. Listeners who like to take in the old with the new will be impressed by what is happening in West Virginia.

West Virginia offers more than takes on historic Appalachian sounds

Over time, West Virginia has introduced the world to a number of musical stars across genres, including Chuck Berry’s pianist Johnnie Johnson, international country star Brad Paisley, Jimi Hendrix’s bassist Billy Cox, iconic musician and songwriter Bill Withers, country sweetheart Kathy Mattea, children’s composer Jack Rollins, and Christian singer Michael W. Smith.

Today, West Virginian artists are still expanding beyond the state’s typical and beloved sounds. AC30 is 70s country rock meets British Invasion chords and harmonies. The Demon Beat is snappy, truculent garage rock. FOX Japan is progressive, unstable pop. Sleepwalker is murky, hardcore party rock. Sly Roosevelt is punk pop with 90s acoustic harm. For West Virginian listeners looking to break up the current of bluegrass, look to the growing number of local bands taking pop and rock directions.

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