In the past 15 years, Charlotte’s live-music scene has exploded.
We now have a dizzying number of clubs in a variety of sizes – from the intimate coffeehouse feel of Evening Muse to the massive Time Warner Cable Arena, from the venerable Bojangles’ Coliseum to the stylish Fillmore, which has been bringing in indie bands that previously didn’t stop here.
Here are eight of our favorite places to enjoy live music:
Visulite Theatre, 1615 Elizabeth Ave. The three-tiered setup allows audiences to enjoy a show however they like – comfortably on a stool by the bar, at the artist’s feet, or somewhere in between. The red velvet curtains and art deco detail around the stage frames the acts, making everything from former Drive-By Trucker Jason Isbell to soul singer ZZ Ward instantly photo-ready. Details: www.visulite.com.
Tremont Music Hall, 400 W. Tremont Ave. Once the only large club in town, the rustic warehouse on the edge of SouthEnd continues to soldier on despite competition from sleeker venues like Amos’ Southend, the Fillmore, and Neighborhood Theatre. It’s carved out a niche with metal, punk and hard rock, but still books on-the-cusp acts that you don’t see anywhere else and iconic veterans like Mudhoney and Anthrax. Plus, there’s pinball and arcade games to add to the old-school vibe. Details: www.tremontmusichall.com.
The Milestone Club, 3400 Tuckaseegee Road. It may appear to be a 44-year-old dump with spray-painted and stickered walls and a ramshackle entryway, but inside you’ll find that the spirit of the legendary ’80s and ’90s – when bands like R.E.M. and Nirvana played there on the way up – is still very much alive. The acts that grace its bare-bones stage put on some of the best shows you’ll see, even if you’ve never heard of the band before. And to boot, it’s run by the most genial club owner in town. Details: www.themilestoneclub.com.
Amos’ Southend, 1423 S. Tryon St. Although it built its name booking tribute acts, the SouthEnd concert hall actually hosts an interesting mix of mainstream rock, indie, and hip-hop, not to mention staples like Purgatory. It’s large enough to see a sell-out show like Iron & Wine or Ed Sheeran without sacrificing intimacy. Plus, parking is free and the balcony runs the entire length of the room, which offers a bird’s-eye view if you get there early enough to score a spot by the rail. Details: www.amossouthend.com.
McGlohon Theater, 345 N. College St. Part of Blumenthal Performing Arts Center, which houses larger venues like the Knight and Belk theaters – as well as smaller ones like the cool but underused Booth Playhouse – McGlohon is the best-sounding room in Charlotte. The stained glass gives it the appearance of a church, which the artists often comment on. Plus, the two-story downtown venue offers music fans the opportunity to see A-list live acts like Pat Benatar and Chris Isaak in an intimate room. Details: www.blumenthalarts.org.
The Fillmore/Uptown Amphitheatre, 1000 NC Music Factory Blvd. The sister venues have brought more music to Charlotte overall. The blue chandeliers in the indoor Fillmore add a sophisticated touch, and because of the tiered layout, it’s usually easy to find a good place to stand on the perimeter even when it’s packed. The neighboring outdoor amphitheater offers the convenience of downtown, a comfortable night breeze, and the intimacy of a smaller (than Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre) venue. With skyscrapers towering overhead, you never forget you’re in the city while watching hip it-bands like the XX, Southern staples like the Black Crowes or ZZ Top, or buzzing hip-hop star Childish Gambino. Details: www.livenation.com.
Double Door Inn, 1218 Charlottetown Ave. There’s something warm about this 40-year-old institution, from the wood décor and the smell of grease to the familiar staff. It’s home of the blues in Charlotte – and its Eric Clapton and Stevie Ray Vaughan stories are legendary – but there’s plenty of variety on display, from Monday night jazz to a bevy of Americana, jam, R&B, and soul. You get a sense that the folks gathered here really want to hear live music, not just to chat between drinks. Details: www.doubledoorinn.com.
Thirsty Beaver Saloon, 1225 Central Ave. If you can squeeze inside on a Sunday afternoon to enjoy whatever countrified act is set up by the front door, then you’re in for a treat. Although it doesn’t advertise its calendar outside of Facebook, Plaza Midwood’s favorite dive bar boasts a schedule of local and national acts that usually pack the orange cinderblock building. There’s no cover charge, but patrons are generous when it comes to passing the hat. Details: 704-332-3612.
Courtney is a freelance writer who covers music for the Observer.
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