Things to do

Your 2018 fall music guide to must-see shows in August and September

Janet Jackson performs during her State of the World Tour stop at Rupp Arena in Lexington, Ky., Monday, December 4, 2017.  Photo by Matt Goins Lexington Herald-Leader
Janet Jackson performs during her State of the World Tour stop at Rupp Arena in Lexington, Ky., Monday, December 4, 2017. Photo by Matt Goins Lexington Herald-Leader

It’s tricky (to rock a rhyme?) navigating Charlotte’s concert scene, uninformed. The myth is that we’ve lost all our best venues—we haven’t. Sure, I loved seeing Buckethead and Les Claypool at Tremont Music Hall. And one of my first dates with my now-wife was during a Bill Hanna jazz jam at the Double Door. But, Charlotte’s live music scene is solid—here is your guide to August and September’s best shows:

Friday, August 3

Janet Jackson @ PNC Music Pavilion

It’s Janet, y’all. Go see a legend.

Heather Gillis Band @ Spirit Square

Sounds on the Square will host a free concert with the emerging talent, Heather Gillis, alongside her band.

Curtis Taylor @ Jazz at the Bechtler

Your ticket includes gallery admission as well as a chance to hear Grammy award-winning improvisational jazz trumpeter, Curtis Taylor.

Sunday, August 5

Kenny Wayne Shepherd @ Belk Theater

Former child prodigy turned guitar hero, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, has been going strong going on two decades. Playing at the Belk Theater at Blumenthal Performing Arts should be a perfect acoustical venue to showcase Shepherd’s talent.

Nate Randall at Front Porch Sundays @ the parking lot of Shook Kelly in South End

It’s all-local here. Area artist Nate Randall will play lounge rock while you enjoy this monthly outdoor festival in Historic South End—with food trucks, crafts, and artisanal vendors from Mallory’s Candles to Milk Mustache Cookies to Glory Days Apparel.

Counting Crows @ PNC Music Pavilion

Find your inner teenager. Oh—you weren’t born when they played hits like “Mr. Jones,” “Round Here,” and “Long December?” ‘May I check your ID, please?’

Wednesday, August 8

311 and The Offspring @ PNC Music Pavilion

Let’s keep it 90s and headbang while 311 crushes basslines. Hold my Discman.

Friday, August 10

Acoustic Syndicate w/ Yellow Feather @ First Ward Park

Part of the ‘Live on the Green’ free concert series, Americana/bluegrass band Acoustic Syndicate is perfect post-happy hour music to kick-off your weekend.

Dierks Bentley @ PNC Music Pavilion

I get the feeling if you told country music star Dierks Bentley that you didn’t like his music, he wouldn’t care and just buy you a beer.

Saturday, August 11

Flute Praise at Stonecrest Music at the Fountain @ Stonecrest Shopping Center

Tommy Lopez will showcase his Latin jazz flute skills for this free show.

Lucinda Williams, Steve Earle, Dwight Yoakam @ Charlotte Metro Credit Union Amphitheatre

Country legends for an outdoor amphitheatre show. I’m in.

Tuesday, August 14

Colby Dobbs @ Romare Bearden Park

Grab a sandwich from Rhino Market and take a break during your work day for this noon-time show from jazz keyboardist Colby Dobbs.

Jason Mraz and Brett Dennen @ Charlotte Metro Credit Union Amphitheatre

Two-thirds of the times I ask my wife, “Who sings this song?” as I tap my fingers on the dashboard of her car, the answer is, “Jason Mraz.”

Thursday, August 16

Soul Junction Bars & Beats Jam Session @ JCSU Arts Factory Black Box Theater

If you haven’t been to one of these improv shows, you should. Showcasing local musicians and national talent, these concerts are at the forefront of Charlotte’s grassroots music scene—and free to attend.

Friday, August 17

Jason Aldean @ PNC Music Pavilion

#1 Billboard country artist Jason Aldean will most certainly play his blistering hit, “You Make it Easy” for his Charlotte fans.

Gov’t Mule @ Charlotte Metro Credit Union Amphitheatre

Guitar god Warren Haynes leads this Southern-rock band that continues the legacy bassist Allen Woody started with The Allman Brothers. Their fans are loyal and their concerts are well-reviewed.

Friday Nights at Camp North End

Arts & crafts, food trucks, and live music are on the menu at this weekly happening in the new industrial-hip venue at Camp North End.

Saturday, August 18

Big Freedia @ The Fillmore Charlotte

Performing NOLA-style bounce music, Big Freedia has toured all over the world and performed on Last Call with Carson Daly and Jimmy Kimmel Live! as well as being featured on tracks by Drake and Beyoncé.

Sunday, August 19

Jeff Beck, Paul Rodgers, and Anne Wilson of Heart @ PNC Music Pavilion

Please, please, let Wilson sing “Barracuda” while Jeff Beck shreds on the guitar.

Thursday, August 23

Live Under the Lights @ Sugar Creek Brewing

Enjoy live music with Belgian beer. And bring your pooch because dogs are welcome on the patio.

Friday, August 24

The Boat Rockers at Mingling on the Greens summer concert series @ Birkdale Village

Outdoor concert on a Friday night at the lake. Sounds like summer.

Thursday, August 30

Atherton Jazz Jam! @ Not Just Coffee—Atherton Mills

Not Just Coffee hosts some of Charlotte’s best jazz musicians for an evening of live music. It’s BYOB and the coffee bar is also open.

Saturday, September 8

Ani DiFranco @ Neighborhood Theatre

Folk rock singer/songwriter Ani DiFranco has been playing to crowds going on nearly three decades, releasing 20 albums during her career. Expect from her music substance and raw emotion at one of Charlotte’s best live music venues.

Thursday, September 13

Malcolm Holcombe with Jared Tyler @ The Evening Muse

Asheville-born Holcombe holds his acoustic guitar on his lap, tilted at an angle, to allow for his aggressive yet graceful bare-fingerpicking style. It’s a wonder to see in person.

Friday, September 14

Alina Baraz @ The Underground

Alina Baraz is well-known for her recent collaborations with artists like Coldplay and Khalid—but her solo work is just emerging into the indie pop/electronic music scene.

September 14-15

Soul Junction @ Liston Hall on the campus of JCSU

Started in 2016, Soul Junction is a free concert, with the description, “Where the city meets the village,” and features soul, hip-hop, and R&B music in a festival atmosphere. Admission is free but attendees are asked to register in advance for tickets.

Saturday, September 15

David Childers @ US National Whitewater Center

Childers’ Charlotte shows have sold out in the past so best get to the US National Whitewater Center early to grab your spot for this FREE show.

Alan Jackson: Honky Tonk Highway Tour @ Spectrum Center

I saw Alan Jackson years ago and it was memorable. I may wander down yonder to the Chattahoochee and see him play one more time.

Cherub @ The Fillmore Charlotte

Party music for sure—with songs like “Doses & Mimosas”—these two guys don’t shy from referencing the extracurricular activities they partake in.

The Moondoggies @ Free Range Brewing

Lead singer Kevin Murphy’s vocals are powerful and cascading—reminiscent of 70s artists in the likes of Neil Young and the Byrds. But, while making Moondoggies’ latest album, Murphy was listening to a lot of Kendrick Lamar and Kanye. I, for one, am interested in how it plays out in their sound.

Tuesday, September 18

Portugal. The Man. @ Charlotte Metro Credit Union Amphitheatre

Portugal. The Man’s music is evolving from quirky pop sounds with catchy hooks to their new forays into rock.

Friday, September 21

Stephane Wrembel @ The Evening Muse

An absolutely stunning acoustic artist, French-born Stephane Wrembel combines jazz and classical guitar with the gypsy music he learned first-hand. The New York Observer called Wrembel, “The living face of gypsy jazz” and David Fricke of Rolling Stone called his music “a revelation,” adding, “I will be back for more.”

Saturday, September 22

David Britt “Singin’ for a Reason” Benefit @ The Visulite Theatre

David Britt plays a mix of originals with covers from Waylon, Cash, and other Country Outlaws thrown in. Proceeds will benefit The American Cancer Society.

Chubby Carrier @ Romare Bearden Park

Carrier’s Grammy-award winning sound is at the heart of Louisiana Zydeco music. At this free show, expect washboard-rubbin’, accordion-squeezing, knee-slapping, soulful sounds of the Deep South.

Tuesday, September 25

The Stanley Clarke Band @ McGlohon Theater

Four-time Grammy award-winning artist Stanley Clarke will play his legendary style of jazz-fusion at McGlohon Theater’s intimate 730-seat venue.

Open Jam with the Smokin’ Js @ Smokey Joe’s Cafe

What was all that about losing old-school Charlotte music venues? Smokey Joe’s is still around and is one of my go-to dive bars to enjoy a show.

Wednesday, September 26

Father John Misty @The Fillmore Charlotte

One of my favorite newly-discovered artists, Father John Misty’s momentum-building shows have been receiving rave reviews as of late.

September 28-29

Charlotte Symphony Pops tribute to Sir Elton John @ Belk Theater

Grammy- and Tony-nominated Michael Cavanaugh leads the Charlotte Symphony for a tribute to the music of Sir Elton John.

Friday, September 28

Chromeo @ The Fillmore Charlotte

Retro-style, electro-funk, and playful—Chromeo flies under the radar in Charlotte but trust me, it will be a fun show. Think Jamiroquai + Justin Timberlake + 70s disco.

Jennifer Knapp @ The Evening Muse

Christian-rock favorite turned LGBTQ activist, singer/songwriter, Jennifer Knapp remains a Christian while professing, “I’ve had a public controversy and had to weather the storm over my sexual orientation in public, I’ve had to deal with what my faith does or doesn’t mean to my music.” This bravery extends to her evocative music.

Caamp @ Visulite Theater

Soulful duo Taylor Meier and Evan Westfall sound years beyond their age.

Saturday, September 29

Cam @ The Underground

No, not that Cam—the other one. Camaron Ochs is a country music singer who reaches fans with her deeply-personal lyrics.

Have a show we missed? Post it in the comments—and keep an eye out for part II of your guide to Charlotte-area music from October–end of December.

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