Music & Nightlife

Your guide to the South’s great music festivals

The crowd goes wild at last year’s Carolina Rebellion metal festival at Charlotte Motor Speedway. This year the festival is May 2-3 at Charlotte Motor Speedway’s Rock City Campgrounds.
The crowd goes wild at last year’s Carolina Rebellion metal festival at Charlotte Motor Speedway. This year the festival is May 2-3 at Charlotte Motor Speedway’s Rock City Campgrounds. Harry Reese

Festival season in the South officially kicked off last weekend, with the U.S. National Whitewater Center’s Tuck Fest and Eastern N.C.’s Shakori Hills Festival. Festivals really get cranking in May before the hottest weather arrives, but you can find gatherings throughout the South all summer long.

Here are some of our picks for the region’s biggest and best multi-day festivals. (Keep in mind: Camping costs extra unless noted, and most organizers offer pricier VIP packages.)


Through Sunday at Wilkes Community College, 1328 S. Collegiate Drive, Wilkesboro.

The lineup for the 27th annual festival includes Spartanburg’s the Marshall Tucker Band and Concord’s the Avett Brothers headlining Friday and Saturday, respectively. Also on the bill: Chatham County Line, Mipso, David Mayfield, Jim Avett, the Kruger Brothers, Robert Earl Keen, Donna the Buffalo, Del McCoury Band, Sam Bush Band, Jim Lauderdale and Steep Canyon Rangers. Sunday’s headliner is Dwight Yoakam. Music starts at 9:30 a.m. daily. Three-day passes are $155; single-day admission is $65 Friday, $70 Saturday and $55 Sunday. Tickets to Saturday’s midnight jam are an additional $40.

Monster Energy Carolina Rebellion

May 2-3 at Rock City Campgrounds at Charlotte Motor Speedway, 5555 Concord Parkway S., Concord.

The annual metal festival aims to please all kinds: goths, punks, thrashers, classic rockers, nu-metal fans and newer metal fans. Saturday’s lineup includes Korn, Marilyn Manson, Cheap Trick, Sammy Hagar, Papa Roach, Chevelle, Scott Weiland and Jackyl, along with newer acts like Of Mice and Men and Periphery. Sunday brings Slipknot, Godsmack, Slayer, Slash, Breaking Benjamin, Halestorm, the Pretty Reckless, In This Moment, Queensryche, In Flames, Exodus and Suicidal Tendencies. Set times are to be announced. Tickets: $104-$119 (plus fees). Camping packages are sold out.

North Carolina Brewers and Music Fest

May 8-9 at Historic Rural Hill, 4431 Neck Road, Huntersville.

The craft beer and roots music festival has joined forces with Drumstrong, which had been holding its own rural outdoor May festival and cancer fundraiser for eight years. In addition to tastings from more than 30 breweries and music from Steep Canyon Rangers, Sister Sparrow & the Dirty Birds, Sol Driven Train, Town Mountain, Yarn and others, Drumstrong will lead a 12-hour worldwide drum circle. Tickets are $42 for a tasting ticket; $26 for music only; $16 for designated drivers; $8 for ages 5-12; free for 4 and younger.

Fourth of July Celebration

July 3-4 at U.S. National Whitewater Center, 5000 Whitewater Center Parkway.

The Whitewater Center hosts free monthly music festivals from spring to fall, in addition to its weekly live music series. This is one of its biggest. This year’s headliners are forward-thinking Michigan roots combo Greensky Bluegrass (Friday) and surfing folk-rock songwriter Donavon Frankenreiter (Saturday); both will be followed by fireworks displays. More acts to be announced. Parking is $5 per car; admission is free.

QC Summerfest

July 24-26 at various venues in uptown Charlotte.

The idea behind the smooth jazz festival is a walkable summer fest utilizing multiple indoor venues (including Belk and McGlohon theaters) convenient to hotels and restaurants. Performers include Najee, pianist Keiko Matsui, guitarist Nick Colionne, Four80east and saxophonist Andre Delano. The weekend will include midday and evening performances, a dinner crawl Friday and a Sunday brunch with guitarist Chris Standring. $25-$69.50.

Beyond Charlotte

Here are five regional festivals worth checking out.

Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver’s 35th Annual Bluegrass Festival (May 7-9 in Denton): Performers include Lawson, Flatt Lonesome, Darin & Brooke Aldridge, Larry Sparks, the Gibson Brothers, Kenny and Amanda Smith, Russell Moore & Thyrd Time Out and Ralph Stanley II.

Leaf Festival (May 8-10 in Black Mountain): The eclectic world and roots music lineup at the annual Lake Eden Arts Festival includes Charles Bradley, Xavier Rudd, the Duhks, Donna the Buffalo, Chief Shaka Zulu, Bombino, Mike Love and Natalia Clavier of Thievery Corporation.

Shaky Knees (May 8-10 in Atlanta): Performers include the Avett Brothers, the Strokes, Wilco, the Pixies, Ryan Adams, Noel Gallagher, Ride, Interpol, Mastodon and TV On the Radio. Atlanta’s burgeoning festival rivals Bonnaroo and Coachella on a smaller scale with increasingly impressive lineups.

Floydfest (July 22-26 in Floyd, Va.): This homegrown Americana festival will feature Grace Potter, Shovels & Rope, Emmylou Harris & Rodney Crowell, Brandi Carlile, Drive-By Truckers, Leftover Salmon, Trampled By Turtles, Lord Huron and First Aid Kit. And Charlotte-based Time Sawyer will make its Floydfest debut.

The Wrecking Ball ATL (Aug. 8-9 in Atlanta): The inaugural metal, punk, emo and hardcore festival marks the 25th anniversary of the Masquerade, a rock venue in downtown Atlanta. The 60-band bill includes Coheed & Cambria, Thrice, Descendents, the Get Up Kids, Cave In, the Movielife and Desaparecidos.

Hopscotch Music Festival (Sept. 10-12 in Raleigh): The downtown festival covers several nearby venues in addition to the outdoor stage, and is set to feature 160 bands this year. Canadian composer Owen Pallett is 2015’s artist-in-residence, and UK duo Godflesh is the only act announced at press time.

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