Archives for category: Music Maniac

ImageThere’s no doubt that Taylor Swift is one of today’s most popular and talked-about pop, rock and country music stars. And there’s no doubt that PNC Arena has hosted many of the hottest musicians in history, and has also impressed thousands of Music Maniacs with its superior design and sound. Fri. night, six-time Grammy-award winner Taylor Swift’s “wow”-factor Red Tour, her fans and the 20,000-seat PNC Arena collided. The connection produced an unforgettable night of live music that will go down as an exceptional highlight in Greater Raleigh’s live music history.

Taylor Swift 6(See more of our Taylor Swift with special guest Ed Sheeran PNC Arena concert photos below)

I’ve seen stellar concerts at PNC Arena from Billy Joel to Katy Perry, and there’s no experience like seeing your favorite artists fill a 700,000-sq.-ft. venue with their stellar live shows. On top of the massive setting and big sound, even as Taylor Swift said herself Fri. night, crowds at shows in N.C. are some of the loudest, craziest and most wonderful. There’s no concert experience like a concert experience in N.C. and in Greater Raleigh.


Photo courtesy of PNC Arena

Fri. evening, I made my way to PNC Arena as early as possible to soak in the scene. I saw that crowds of Taylor Swift’s fans had already arrived donning red clothes, in spirit of the Red Tour’s red theme. And since the arena permits tailgating, I heard fans blasting Taylor Swift’s tunes from their vehicles and I could smell grilled hot dogs and hamburgers in sections of the parking lot (see PNC Arena’s policies for more information on tailgating at the venue). But as the show’s 7pm starting time drew nearer, Taylor time drew nearer. The arena filled with fans.

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I love the arena’s design as even at sold-out shows, like Fri. night’s, the concourses never feel cramped. There’s plenty of space to shop for tour merchandise and to grab a bite to eat. A nice variety of food and beverage is offered with more than 50 outlets to choose from. Fine dining is offered at the Arena Club Restaurant, perfect for dates, celebrations and more and casual dining is offered at outlets including N.C. BBQ Company, Fire It Up! Grill Stands, Market Place and more. Fuel up with delicious food and drink for a night of dancing and singing!

Concessions 1Tour merchandise is always fun to shop, and sometimes tours even have special displays. Taylor Swift’s Red Tour had displays showing off many of her outfits worn on awards shows, previous tours and music videos (her dress from the 2012 ACM Awards, her dress from the 2012 AMA Awards and the outfit she wore in the “Mean” music video and also during the Speak Now World Tour).

When I made my way to my seat, friendly ushers and staff pointed me in the right direction. I’m always impressed by the Southern hospitality and helpful nature of the staff at PNC Arena. And the noticeable camaraderie between its staff creates an even more positive, family-like atmosphere where you can easily feel at home.

The concert kicked off right at 7pm with Casey James, known for his American Idol days and for his singles including “Crying on a Suitcase” and “Let’s Don’t Call It a Night.” Casey James’s voice and his deep, warm Fender Stratocaster sounds rang through the arena along with the sounds of his full band, which included a pedal steel player on a Mullen pedal steel, a drummer, a keyboardist and a bassist. Being the Music Maniac that I am, I was intrigued by Casey’s slide guitar playing when he rocked his electric resonator guitar for his song “Drive.”

Casey JamesAfter Casey James’s set, the stage was set for singer and songwriter Ed Sheeran, known popularly for his hit “The A Team” and virtuoso songwriting skills. No band or accompaniment was present for the set—just Mr. Sheeran, his guitar and a loop pedal.

Ed Sheeran 1With the acoustics in the arena and the fullness of his playing and sound, Ed Sheeran filled the entire venue with his full voice and guitar, playing on his Martin LX1E electric acoustic.

Ed Sheeran 3Ed Sheeran laid out percussion parts and beats on his guitar and used his Boss loop pedal to loop the beats, which made it sound like there was a full band on stage. With the arena’s enormous sub-woofers and sound system, when he hit his guitar in the right place, it sounded like he hit a bass drum. At one point, he explained to the audience how his loop pedal worked. He connected greatly with the audience so when he urged the audience to sing along, the fans followed and the audience became a chorus, which sounded beautiful throughout the arena.

Ed Sheeran 2He also mentioned the great time he was having in Raleigh! Ed Sheeran played songs including “Give Me Love,” “Lego House” and “The A Team.”

Ed Sheeran 4Soon after Ed Sheeran’s satisfying and entertaining set, the moment came that the Taylor Swift fans had been waiting for. The massive stage was completely set for Taylor Swift’s production and energy was buzzing with everyone’s eyes fixated on the stage. Lenny Kravitz’s rendition of The Guess Who’s “American Woman” began to blast through the venue’s sound system (appropriate as Tom Petty’s “American Girl” was the song played right before the 2011 Speak Now World Tour shows) and upon ending, in capital, red letters, the word “RED” appeared on the screens on the stage. The crowd erupted in screams and cheers. The screens lifted into the air and Taylor’s silhouette could be seen on a massive red drape hiding the majority of the stage. The drape fell and the cheers grew louder as Taylor appeared. The first song started and she made her way down the stage and to the catwalk that extended into the middle of the arena floor.

Taylor Swift 1Taylor Swift kicked off the night with her song “State of Grace” and went into hit after hit, the crowd screaming and singing along to each song.

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Taylor Swift 5Her production filled the entire arena, with a main stage with the catwalk, a stage she performed several songs near the back of the arena (including a duet with Ed Sheeran on their hit single “Everything Has Changed”), a “floating” stage that “flew” through the arena and more. PNC Arena was the perfect fit for a production like this, with its four-level seating making every one of Taylor’s stages easy to see.

Throughout the night, Taylor went from full band, to solo, to parts where she explained the meaning of the songs she was about to play. Throughout it all, she created an intimate setting where she could connect with her fans. She would reach into the audience to shake her fans’ hands and give Red Tour guitar picks to them. And before one of her songs, she sat at her red piano and explained to the audience her passion for writing lyrics that she genuinely feels, and that she’ll sometimes writes songs between the hours of 2am and 5am about deep emotions and thoughts.

Each song featured a theatrical, visual theme, with one song having almost a “Nutcracker” theme with the dancers dressed as life-size, wind-up toys that entered the stage from a giant, old-fashioned toy box. Another song featured a masquerade ball theme.

The concert ended with “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” as Taylor Swift, her band and her dancers rocked circus-themed costumes with Taylor appropriately dressed as the ring master. Confetti flew threw the air, dancers walked about on stilts, Taylor wailed with beautiful vocal runs and high notes and the song was even extended as the closing number came to an end. The arena, the concert, the artists, the fans, the atmosphere and the sound all created an unforgettable night of live music.

PNC Arena is a place where you can experience artists bringing their theatrical visions and dreams to life all while filling the arena with their music. And you’ll always feel the Greater Raleigh vibe at concerts at the arena with the staff’s Southern hospitality, N.C. barbecue to dine on, fun Southern energy and North Carolina State University and Carolina Hurricanes NHL hockey team visuals throughout the venue.

Check out the upcoming shows and events coming to PNC Arena here, including Michael Bublé, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, Justin Timberlake and more.

Music-mania-web-header-2With the tremendous amount of live music events going on, Greater Raleigh has the most live music out of any destination in N.C. Check out the live music calendar at to start planning your music-filled getaway.

1a8a6973The Pour House Music Hall, located in the Moore Square Art District in downtown Raleigh, has brought together great musicians from all over N.C. and the U.S. over the past fifteen years. If you’re a Music Maniac catching live music in Greater Raleigh, this venue is definitely a “must-experience” for visitors.

The Pour House Music Hall is known not only for its large amount of support for local bands, but also local breweries. The venue offers local brews that they regularly have on tap, such as beers from Big Boss Brewing Company, White Street Brewing Company and Lonerider Brewing Company. There are usually one or two bartenders available to refill your glass as you listen to bands in all kinds of genres.

1a8a6971Last Sun., The Pour House Music Hall hosted a few of the many musicians that came to Raleigh for Hopscotch Music Festival 2013. The venue held an after-party that brought together area bands like The Chit Nasty Band and Nuclear Honey to rock the stage.

1a8a6848Gray Henderson, one of the lead vocalists and guitarists of Nuclear Honey, describes The Pour House Music Hall as being a centrally located venue in downtown Raleigh with a dive bar feel. The environment is friendly and suits about 100 fans. On the first floor, it has some bench seating and a few tables and barstools arranged closer to the bar area.

1a8a6867The venue also has some standing room around the stage for a different view of the band and for easy access to the second floor, which features an open view of the first floor and stage and two pool tables to entertain in between sets.


1a8a6901Gray also mentioned that Nuclear Honey has performed about five or six times at The Pour House Music Hall because of the staff, the stage, the sound and the atmosphere. He also explained, “Adam Lindstaedt, the owner, is attentive to bands that he hosts in his venue and Jac Cain, the production manager and sound engineer, provides great sound for bands that play and for concertgoers.” The venue rocks a loud sound system, but the tones are not harsh to the ear, making it a great venue for music fans take in the musical textures and musical colors that many of the bands offer.

1a8a6952Nuclear Honey has been together since the fall of 2011 when Gray Henderson and Reaves Greer, the other lead guitarist and vocalist, brought their talents together as a duo. They recorded their first album in 2012 but decided to bring on a more full sound with Michael Day on keyboard, Kenan Jernigan on drums and Webb Bostic on bass, making up the band they recorded their first full-length album with, which is titled “Nobody Panic.”

1a8a6926The band is intriguing to listen to and entertains throughout the entire set with a good variety of Southern rock and rock sounds and moods. The band features soothing instrumental solos throughout the set and the albums. The energy is very upbeat and you’re likely to be enticed to dance with their infectious rhythms.

1a8a6908Nuclear Honey mainly performs in Raleigh, so I’d highly recommend catching them at their next show! And The Pour House Music Hall hosts many bands of different genres almost every day of the week! You can check out its schedule here.

For a full schedule of Greater Raleigh live music events, check out Music Mania on!

Written by Kristen Hill. All photos in this post contributed by Kristen Hill of Kristen Abigail Photography.

Kings Barcade in downtown Raleigh is recognized for being a melting pot for entertainers: musicians and comedians combined. Kings Barcade is located on the top floor of a three-story building at 14 W. Martin St. The venue is partnered with Neptunes Parlour, which is an underground bar that features a different DJ every night. And on the second floor, Garland just recently opened to give you an outdoor place to eat before you enjoy the show up at Kings Barcade.

The crowd that Kings Barcade attracts is a quirky mix, which coincides with the way that the venue is set up. The venue has a lot of fun decorations and paintings on the walls that give the venue an artistic, creative feel.


Fans have a chance to experience a more personal setting with the artists because the venue has a capacity of 100. The stage has hosted well-known artists such as Rob Delaney, The Avett Brothers, The Felice Brothers and many local musicians since Kings Barcade opened back in 1999. Kings Barcade also has a small corner when you walk through the doors where you can purchase merchandise and interact with the musicians.


While enjoying the live music, the Kings Barcade bar holds about 20 seats around it and offers a variety of mixed drinks and craft beers, including brews from Fuquay-Varina’s Aviator Brewing Company. The bartenders are very friendly and are knowledgeable about the beers that they have on tap!


Sat. night, Raleigh artists Saints Apollo released their album “We Are Ghosts.” Chris Hendricks, also from Raleigh, opened the evening and got the crowd ready to hear the new sounds that Saints Apollo had prepared. Together, Kings Barcade and Saints Apollo packed the house with all the promoting that both the venue and the musicians did by posting eye-catching posters around town and by publicizing the performance on Facebook and Twitter.


Chris Hendricks is a pop and rock artist and usually performs with a five-piece band, but Sat. night he performed an acoustic set with Calin Nanney, who is also another local musician. You may recognize Chris’s voice as his song “Noise” was the theme song for the Carolina Hurricanes NHL hockey team during their 2011-2012 season. Earlier this year, Chris released his most recent album “Meant to Survive,” and at the show he performed all the songs from that album, plus a few other songs. During a brief interview with Chris, I asked him if he is planning on recording a new album soon, and he explained that right now he is writing a lot of music but has no plans to record again in the near future. Although, he did say that he loves performing for live audiences, and especially in Raleigh because he gets to share the stage with other bands that are supportive of his music.


Saints Apollo contains five people: Jonathan Koo on lead vocals and guitar, Autumn Brand on violin and vocals, Kaitlin Grady on cello and vocals, Rachel Broadbent on keyboard and vocals and Andrew Fetch on drums. The group was formed in Raleigh and has been together since 2011. The band collaborates to write all of the songs they perform and they primarily fall into the indie, pop and folk genres, much like Josh Ritter and the Royal City Band or Mount Moriah. Sat. night, the band invited a few of their closest fans and friends up on stage for their first song “Hashin’ it Out” to dance in the background and to get the rest of their fans to put on their dancing shoes. Jonathan carries a strong folk tone throughout all of their songs while Autumn, Kaitlin and Rachel bring in lush harmonies with their voices and instruments, and Andrew adds the catchy beat that will keep your feet tapping along with the songs.


Kaitlin Grady, their cellist and one of the vocalists, mentioned that she loves performing at Kings Barcade because of the intimate setting and it allows her to be on the same stage as a lot of her favorite indie bands.


The last time that Saints Apollo performed was in Mar. as they wanted to dedicate their free time to recording this past spring and summer, but they are very excited to be booking more shows for the rest of this year. Saints Apollo will be performing during Hopscotch Music Festival 2013 next Sat. at Tir Na NOg Irish Pub. The energy that the band gives out really invites the crowd to join in with clapping and singing along, and it is something you do not want to miss out on.

Check out other bands like Saints Apollo and more at Kings Barcade, with its intimate and energetic atmosphere. You can check out their calendar here.

Written by Kristen Hill. All photos in this post contributed by Kristen Hill with Kristen Abigail Photography.

North Carolina Museum of Art is known for displaying the highest quality of art in its world-class collection, including more than 30 Rodin sculptures. It’s also known for presenting some of the highest quality concerts and events in its Joseph M. Bryan, Jr., Theater in the Museum Park. Mix an outdoor theater with an excellent artistic landscape and design, delicious food and drinks, live music and a film screening, and you have a setting that will intrigue both Music Maniacs and Creative Geniuses. Sat. night’s Summer Concert at North Carolina Museum of Art included a performance by the Cajun music-influence rock band Lost Bayou Ramblers and a screening of Beasts of the Southern Wild. And the tie-in between the band and the movie was perfect: Lost Bayou Ramblers recorded a song called “The Bathtub” for the film’s official soundtrack and included the song in their set! The event was exceptionally visually and sonically entertaining for myself and the entire audience! The whole experience, from start to finish, offered a wide array of visual and audible art.

ImageI arrived at the museum early so I could take in the scene. Walking down the pathway into the theater, you can get some great views of the Museum Park at North Carolina Museum of Art, a 164-acre park with a trail system with outdoor art along the way. I highly suggest to get to the venue about an hour early to walk through some of Museum Park!

ImageAs you make your way through the entrance of the theater area, you can see the gigantic museum building that’s full of galleries to your left and the amphitheater and outdoor movie screen (pictured below) straight ahead. Right when I walked in, my stomach starting growling as I took in the aroma of food cooking at the Iris, the Museum Restaurant, catering tent nearby. I took a peek at the food and beverages being offered. The venue offered house wines, craft beer, soft drinks and gourmet fare including grilled chicken sandwiches, white cheddar bacon burgers, catch of the day soft tacos and more. And since the night was New Orleans-themed, due to the Beasts of the Southern Wild screening later and the Cajun music-influence band about to play, the venue’s food special was shrimp po’ boys. Many attendees either purchased food or brought in their own food (the venue lets you take in your own picnic).

I made my way around the theater to take in the different views of the stage and the film screen. The lawn was full of blankets and portable outdoor chairs as the museum also welcomes you to bring in seating for comfort if you’re sitting on the lawn. The seats in front of the stage were also full of attendees who wanted to be close to the stage.

ImageThe concert started at 7pm sharp. Lost Bayou Ramblers cranked up and broke into a rocking song that influenced much of the crowd to start dancing. The constant pulse and Cajun music-influenced grooves caused more and more of the audience to move throughout the night, and by the time the show was coming to an end the area immediately in front of the stage was a complete dance floor. The infectious fiddle sound, mixed with swinging vocals, accordion, an electric bass, a full drum set, occasional lap steel and very well-written originals and traditional songs, kept the crowd glued to the performance all evening. Cheers and applause erupted throughout the night.



I absolutely loved the mix of this band’s sound and the venue. The amphitheater stage is a work of art in itself. The lighting also made the stage a sight to see. The volume was perfect. It wasn’t too loud and not too quiet, and the wailing violin and lap steel tones came through very smoothly. And due to the size and space of the amphitheater, you could be right at the front of the stage and still hear every detail in the musical arrangements clearly (which was important for Lost Bayou Ramblers with their textured arrangements). The venue was naturally a good fit for the show and the showing of Beasts of the Southern Wild as vegetation and greenery can be seen throughout the venue. Not to mention, the weather couldn’t have been better. With the fall coming soon, there was a cooling breeze and a clear sky.


ImageLost Bayou Ramblers played until about 8:20pm, and the crowd cheered for the band! The museum then announced that the film would begin at 9pm and the crowd made its way to the massive outdoor screen. The film began and the crowd became lost in the film.

ImageNorth Carolina Museum of Art presents concerts throughout the summer, and the next concert will feature the genre-crossing “little orchestra” Pink Martini. The Lost Bayou Ramblers and Southern Beasts of the Wild event was the last concert-plus-film-screening event of the summer, but be sure to check out the upcoming Pink Martini show to experience this excellent venue! Click here for more upcoming events. The museum also announced at the event that the museum will be showing classic car-related films like The French Connection and even Car Wash during the time that the Porsche by Design: Seducing Speed exhibition is on display, Oct. 12, 2013-Jan. 20, 2014.

Music-mania-web-header-2Greater Raleigh is full of great concerts and music events this summer. In the month ahead, visit the area for Hopscotch Music Festival 2013, SPARKcon 2013, International Bluegrass Music Association’s World of Bluegrass including PNC presents Wide Open Bluegrass, Bluegrass Ramble and more and hot concerts at area venues.

With all of the events that are going on, it may come as no surprise that Greater Raleigh has more live music than any other destination in N.C.! Check out a full calendar of events at!

Tir na nOg Irish Pub
With a prime location on Raleigh’s Moore Square, Tir na nOg Irish Pub is part restaurant, part bar and part venue. You can catch a live band, typically of the Irish persuasion, there just about any night of the week. For the past several years, Tir na nOg has teamed up with WKNC, Raleigh’s premier college music station, on Thurs. nights for Local Band, Local Beer featuring—you guessed it—local bands on stage and a local beer on tap. Visit for details.

Sadlack’s Heroes
Located just across the street from North Carolina State University’s campus, Sadlack’s has a bit of a split personality. What appears to be a quaint sandwich shop by day transforms at nightfall to a raucous bar and music venue. Leave the kids at home and get your people watching on while you listen to local bands on the outdoor patio. A number of acts have gotten their start at Sadlack’s, so stop on by to see who could be the next big thing.

42nd St. Oyster Bar & Seafood Grill
One of Raleigh’s oldest restaurants, 42nd St. Oyster Bar & Seafood Grill has been shucking oysters since 1932. On top of the restaurant’s culinary draws, they also offer live music on Fri. and Sat. nights. You won’t catch any big name artists here (Bag O Boogie, anyone?) but it offers a fantastic soundtrack as you unwind with friends at the end of the week.

Aviator Brewing Tap House
It’s hard to resist the notion of an afternoon at the old train depot, drinking locally brewed beer while a live band plays. At the Aviator Brewing Tap House, you get just that. The sister establishment to the Aviator Brewing Company brewery down the road, the tap house serves up some of Aviator’s best brews (at a very precise 47 degrees F for optimal flavor) in the old Varina train depot, which dates back to 1903. Live music Thurs. through Sun. only enhances the atmosphere.

Written by Valerie Marino, blogger:

Greater Raleigh boasts a massive collection of great live-music restaurants. Browse through the database to find a restaurant that suits you! More “must-mentions” are Irregardless Cafe and Busy Bee in Raleigh and Doherty’s Irish Pub & Restaurant and Hibernian Restaurant & Pub in Cary.

The shows don’t stop this summer. With the most live music out of any destination in N.C., you’re bound to find your groove in Greater Raleigh. Take in a summer of wall-to-wall music!


The Robert Plant & The Sensational Space Shifters show at Cary’s Koka Booth Amphitheatre Sat. night will definitely go down as a highlight of Greater Raleigh’s summer of wall-to-wall live music. The experience of witnessing a rock legend at one of the area’s most beloved music venues was remarkable. Fans, like myself, of Robert Plant and his projects like The Sensational Space Shifters and Band of Joy took in a phenomenal concert at a phenomenal venue.

A stellar aspect of Koka Booth Amphitheatre is that you can take in some of the beauty of North Carolina’s Piedmont region and see a concert all in one night. If you’re going to a show at the venue, I highly suggest arriving several hours early. You can get a great parking space (another great thing about the venue is that it offers free parking) and scope out the scenery. The amphitheatre is situated directly next to the beautiful Symphony Lake (the name is highly appropriate as many North Carolina Symphony concerts are held at the venue), which is surrounded by a greenway that you can walk to take in the scenery and N.C. wildlife. Check out the venue’s site map to see the lay of the land!


The picturesque scenery is just as beautiful when you walk into the venue. Enter the venue through the main entrance! As seen below, you’ll walk down a shaded path engulfed by hardwoods and pines. You realize, even more, that the natural setting, the amphitheatre and the music it features blend together in perfect harmony. I’d also suggest that if you sit in the lawn area, get to the venue early so you’ll have a wide selection of seating locations to choose from (you can take your own lawn chairs and blankets)!


The night of music kicked off with Bombino, an internationally acclaimed Tuareg guitarist and singer-songwriter from Agadez, Niger, and his band. The blend of rock, blues and world music set a great mood for the night. A truly talented and awesome musician with a truly talented and awesome band, Bombino impressed concert-goers and rocked Koka Booth Amphitheatre. The band opened with energy and kept up the energy for the entire set. I’d wanted to see Bombino (whose latest album, Nomad, was produced by The Black Key’s Dan Auerbach), and it was great to see him at one of my favorite venues. During Bombino’s set, I made up my mind about where I wanted to stand in the lawn to take in the concert. Due to the layout of the venue, the sound is just as good from every spot on the lawn. I especially like the back-center view (pictured below) and the pine tree-covered area to the left of the stage (looking at the stage from the lawn area) where Symphony Lake can be easily viewed.


After Bombino’s set, while the stage was being set for the headliner, I scoped out the food and beverages available. A good number of craft beers were being served including Raleigh’s very own Lonerider Brewing Company‘s Sweet Josie Brown Ale at the venue’s Pine Needle Pub. Pine Needle Pub offers an outdoor pub-type setting with stand-up tables, a few bar stands including a “hut” bar and a great social atmosphere. Cocktails and wine and wine by the bottle were also being sold at Koka Booth Amphitheatre. Delicious food served at Cobblestone Courtyard included gourmet sandwiches and wraps, pizza, pretzels, hot dogs and much, much more. Other food vendors included Chick-Fil-A, Z Pizza, Dickey’s Barbecue Pit and the Hibachi Xpress food truck. You can also have a “Picnic in the Park!” The venue’s Virtual Café offers a variety of food items that can be ordered in advance for all events. If you purchase a table seating ticket, you also have access to the sheltered area and Crescent Cafe (area picture below).


Suddenly, I heard the crowd cheer and I made my way to my choice lawn spot to the left of the stage (facing the stage). Sensational Space Shifters guitarist Liam “Skin” Tyson (of The La’s offshoot Cast) began playing a classical-sounding number, Robert Plant’s entrance kept myself and the crowd cheering and the guitarist entered into the Led Zeppelin tune “Babe I’m Gonna Leave You.” The crowd erupted in more cheers, screams and claps, as concert-goers like myself were in euphoria when we began hearing Robert Plant’s famous voice in person. The tone of Robert Plant’s golden voice through Koka Booth Amphitheatre’s top-notch sound system was perfect. The overall mix of electric Delta blues, Celtic folk revival, world music, a splash of electronic music and other genres pleased concert-goers tremendously, as those who have heard many of Robert Plant and Led Zeppelin’s songs heard many of the songs with tasteful, creative, entertaining and innovative twists Sat. night. Being a Led Zeppelin fan since high school, I absolutely loved hearing some of my favorite Robert Plant and Led Zeppelin tunes at a venue I love. The band played other famous Led Zeppelin songs such as “Black Dog,” “Misty Mountain Hop” and more, and closed the night with “Whole Lotta Love” and “Rock and Roll.”


Another feature of the venue that always impresses me is the light show. I wanted to get another view of Robert Plant and the dramatic light show, so I made my way to the right side of the stage (facing the stage). Due to the amphitheatre’s intriguing architecture and the intensity of the lights, the stage itself is a sight to see at night. And the sound system always rocks, as its clear sound and tone is soothing and not harsh by any means, even at a high volume. The volume was great for Music Maniacs like myself who like to crank up the volume, but also great for kids and those who don’t like a booming sound system.


I highly suggest to experience a concert at Koka Booth Amphitheatre. The venue brings in a nice variety of genres, as shows coming up include Wild Card Wednesdays Music Series: Tropic Orchestra, Wild Card Wednesdays Music Series: Johnny Folsom Four And The Canady Thomas Band, Hank Williams Jr., Willie Nelson, Alabama Shakes, Chris Tomlin and more! The venue also shows popular movies! Check out the schedule of events here.


The number of music events at Koka Booth Ampthitheatre along with the number of music events at Greater Raleigh’s huge collection of venues make Greater Raleigh the destination with the most live music in N.C.! Learn more about the area’s summer of wall-to-wall live music!

It’s highly likely that if you go to a summer festival in North Carolina, you’ll experience the craze that is Carolina beach music! There’s no denying that the genre is hot in the Carolinas. With the fun of the live music and easy-to-shag-to grooves, Carolina beach music concerts are great shows for visitors to hit and have a great time at. You’re bound to hear some tunes you know. Some beach music chart-topping artists include Jimmy Buffett, Alabama, Al Green, Ray Charles and Van Morrison.


And if you’re coming to Greater Raleigh this summer, catching a Carolina beach music concert is a breeze. If you haven’t experienced the craze that is Carolina beach music, you must experience a concert in the area. If you’re a fan of the genre, you must experience a concert in the area as well! Throughout the summer (until Aug. 15), North Hills is putting on beach music concerts in its town square-like Commons area every Thurs. night. This series of concerts, called the Midtown Beach Music Series, undeniably rocks the area. I hit the event last Thurs. and had a blast listening to Band of Oz, the local Raleigh band that played that night.

North Hills, on its own and even without a concert going on, is a blast to visit. The original North Hills shopping center was built in 1967 as the “first two-story mall” between Washington, D.C., and Atlanta. Since ’67, the shopping center has grown way beyond just a shopping center. North Hills is now a gigantic area with millions of square feet of shops, restaurants, entertainment venues, residencies, offices and more. More than 130 shops and restaurants and 81 locally-owned shops and restaurants are all nestled in the stylish and classy heart of the Midtown Raleigh district.


I love The Commons, the area of North Hills where the Midtown Beach Music Series takes place, and to say, “North Hills goes all out for the concerts in the area,” is an understatement. Finding a place to park Thurs. night was a breeze with the numerous and visible parking signs around the area. Just arriving to the area alone is an experience, as the beautiful Carolina sky over the elegant buildings makes for a great sight.

I’d suggest to get to North Hills early for lunch. If you’re on vacation looking for a relaxing, care-free afternoon, dine at one of the many restaurants in the area. Mura at North Hills, Fox and Hound Pub & Grille, Five Guys Famous Burgers & Fries and many, many other restaurants offer delicious dining. Fuel up for a night of dancing! And when you’re ready for dinner after a night of dancing, give one of the other restaurants a try.

The Midtown Beach Music Series concerts start at 6pm, right when locals and families are going out and looking for a great time. So the party is really happening by that time. From families, to young professionals and more, everyone has a great time and especially when the music starts.

Band of oz

The event is truly an outdoor party and a great social event. The Commons area is roped off, so drinks are served in the outdoor area. From domestic beers to cocktails and wine, there are plenty of drink options for the adults. With Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream, Five Guys Famous Burgers & Fries and more right in The Commons, kids have plenty of food and beverage options as well. I definitely suggest bringing a lawn chair if you can! Get to the show early and get a great spot, so you can sit down and relax if you need a break from dancing and doing the ever-so-popular beach music dance known as the shag.

Now to the music: Band of Oz and Carolina beach music bands like North Tower, The Fantastic Shakers, The Craig Woolard Band and more are playing at the concerts. And North Hills does a great job of picking great, very talented and entertaining bands to play. Check out a concert any Thurs. during the summer and you’re set for some quality Carolina beach music. I also find the sound system to be top-notch (not too loud for the kids and not too low for Music Maniacs who love to rock). From the sounds of the horn section, to the round, clean guitar sounds, tight vocal harmonies and more, the sound system picks up the timbres to perfection.


So if you’re up for an entertaining night of music, food, drink, dancing and shagging, check out the Midtown Beach Music Series at North Hills!

Click here for the schedule of bands

The shows don’t stop this summer. With the most live music out of any destination in N.C., you’re bound to find your groove in Greater Raleigh. Take in a summer of wall-to-wall music!


The band pictured throughout this blog is Band of Oz from Raleigh!

I mentioned in a previous blog entry that a cool Carolina breeze and great live music always puts a smile on my face. So thanks to a beautiful North Carolina evening and the Jerry Garcia Symphonic Celebration featuring Warren Haynes at Red Hat Amphitheater (500 S. McDowell St.) in downtown Raleigh, I was smiling ear to ear last night.


From the nationally-known bands the venue brings in, to the towering stage, to the scenic view of downtown Raleigh, to the selection of exquisite food and craft beers and more, Red Hat Amphitheater offers a very special and unique place to take in live music. I love all genres of music, and the venue surely brings in a wide variety of touring bands to downtown Raleigh. Bob Dylan performed earlier in June. Just several days later, Smashing Pumpkins rocked the venue. And last night, rock and blues guitarist, vocalist and songwriter Warren Haynes teamed up with North Carolina Symphony to put on a concert celebrating the music and life of rock legend Jerry Garcia.

I arrived at the venue gate as early as possible, eager to scope out the scene and to begin enjoying a much-anticipated night of live music. I highly suggest to go to the concerts with an appetite. Local, award-winning barbecue restaurant The Pit offers their mouthwatering barbecue sandwiches and fried chicken sandwiches. Pair up the delicious food with a selection of 13 different beers. Local beers served includes brews from Big Boss Brewing Company and Lonerider Brewing Company. The venue also has a cocktail bar where crowd favorites and other creations are served. For the kids, the venue serves up thirst-quenching Pepsi drinks, slushies, hot dogs, popcorn and other treats.

Waiting for the show to start, I took in the magnificent view of downtown Raleigh from the venue. Opposite the direction of the stage is Raleigh Convention Center with its grand Cree Shimmer Wall displaying an oak tree that shimmers with an array of vibrant colors when the sun sets. Much of downtown’s tallest buildings are visible from the amphitheater as well.


The 5,500-capacity Red Hat Amphitheater provides a spread-out space to enjoy outdoor shows comfortably. The venue provides seven seat sections, 26 boxed areas with seats and tables and a lawn area. VIP patrons had waitstaff service. For some shows, a general audience pit is sectioned off and the area will have no seats. For the Jerry Garcia Symphonic Celebration featuring Warren Haynes, all seats were in place so concertgoers could sit back and relax right in front of the stage, and in other areas. Check out the layout of the venue here.

Closely watching the stage, on the edge of my seat waiting for the show to start, I saw the symphony slowly fill up the stage and after a few moments, Warren Haynes took to the stage. Grateful Dead, Jerry Garcia, Warren Haynes and North Carolina Symphony fans erupted in applause, whistling and cheering. Many fans of Jerry Garcia gravitate towards the bluesy, soulful sound of Warren Haynes’s guitar playing and vocals, so the combination of Garcia’s songs and Haynes’s guitar playing and singing was magnificent.


The music began and the crowd cheered on Warren Haynes and North Carolina Symphony. The volume was perfect and the blend of the soothing symphony sounds with Haynes’s smooth, round guitar tone filled the venue beautifully. Haynes’s raspy voice was complimented by the relaxing symphony sounds. Other than Haynes and the symphony, the musicians on stage also included a drummer on a full drum kit, an electric bass player and two backup vocalists (these were musicians that play with Warren Haynes at many shows). One of the many things about that venue impresses me every time I take in a show there is the sound quality. The venue’s team of seasoned sound technicians paired with the collection of enormous speakers makes for a system with just the right amount of volume and a comfortable tone.

The show was amazing. Haynes and the symphony played their hearts out, celebrating the life of a man who wrote some of the most well-written songs in rock history and made an everlasting, everlasting mark in the world of music. Jerry Garcia’s songs rang through the downtown area where the venue sits. Some highlights from the two-and-a-half hour set included “Uncle John’s Band,” “Terrapin Station,” “Dark Star,” “Stella Blue” and more.


Throughout the show I kept wondering, “How exactly did this very unique show come to fruition?” Warren Haynes announced at the show that the Jerry Garcia estate called him and asked if he’d like to be the first vocalist/guitarist to be featured at a Jerry Garcia Symphonic Celebration. He mentioned that he was honored and very happy to play. I also asked North Carolina Symphony director of communications Joe Newberry how the show landed in Greater Raleigh. He explained that the stars aligned and it came together just right (the chemistry, the date, the venue; the timing of the show-planning process was perfect). Only select symphonies were chosen for the concert, and the Raleigh show was the only show in the Southeast on the tour.

The Red Hat Amphitheater was the perfect venue for a show like this. Wide open, spacious and laid back. The setting sparks a social atmosphere and I honestly didn’t see one face with a frown. After all, Jerry Garcia fans tend to be happy people. Throw in a Carolina breeze, great food, a picturesque view and you have the ingredients for a celebration. And that’s just what this concert was.


Miss the show? Don’t sweat it! Greater Raleigh has more live music that any other destination in N.C., so you know the Red Hat Amphitheater has a big lineup of shows coming up this summer. Check out the schedule here.

The North Carolina Symphony always impresses. After the show last night, the Classical Mystery Tour featuring The Beatles hits and the Symphonic Mashup: The Music of Radiohead Meets Brahms, it’s proven that the North Carolina Symphony can rock and that it can entertain all sorts of Music Maniacs.

Coming just around the corner is the Sci-Fi Spectacular event on Thurs., June 27, and Fri., June 28. George Takei, “Mr. Sulu,” of Star Trek will be in Greater Raleigh to narrate your journey through the galaxy, live, accompanied by music from E.T., Star Wars, Close Encounters of the Third Kind and, of course, Star Trek. A must-see for Trekkies!

Join the orchestra for an evening of mega-hits from Broadway at NC Symphony Summerfest Series presents Broadway Blockbusters on June 22 at Koka Booth Amphitheatre in Cary. Songs include “I Dreamed a Dream” from Les Miserables and “Music of the Night” from Phantom of the Opera, plus hits from The Sound of Music, Music Man and Fiddler on the Roof.


The shows don’t stop this summer in Greater Raleigh. Take in a wall-to-wall summer of music in Greater Raleigh!

There are environments and situations that make your energy tough to contain; places and events where it’s nearly impossible to keep your body still. Bringing in stellar touring and local musical acts, Lincoln Theatre in downtown Raleigh (126 E. Cabarrus St.) happens to offer one of these environments. Especially when the venue brings in entertaining, high-energy bands like ska punk rockers Less Than Jake like they did Wed. night!


I’d seen Less Than Jake on tour a few years ago at another venue, but as we say here at visitRaleigh, “Sometimes it’s not just about what music you’re listening to, it’s about where you’re at while you’re listening.” I was pumped to see the band up close and personal at Lincoln Theatre, and especially in downtown Raleigh.

I knew the doors were officially going to open at 7pm, so I arrived at about 5:30pm. At Lincoln Theatre concerts, or general-admission concerts anywhere in Greater Raleigh, I’d always suggest that you get your ticket early and arrive early so you can land a spot in the front of the “waiting-for-the-doors-to-open line.” That way, when the venue lets you in, you have the option of snagging a great spot and getting your favorite view of the stage (at the front of the stage, middle or in the back to take in the panoramic view). If you get there even earlier, and I’m talking way before the line starts to form, fuel up with downtown restaurants right around the corner.

I arrived early and I was about number 20 to walk through the doors when they opened at 7pm. For a Music Maniac, walking through that venue door and officially being set for a night of music is a great feeling. My ticket was scanned, and I walked through the main entrance room where Less Than Jake and the two bands on tour with them (Pentimento and Hostage Calm) had merchandise displays lining the wall. The local band opening up the show, a highly entertaining punk rock band called Almost People, had a table with merchandise as well.

Looking ahead when you walk through the doors of the main entrance, you’ll see a very well-stocked bar. I noticed that a favorite for last night were the $4 16-ounce Pabst Blue Ribbon cans. An abundance of brews awaits for those who like a great variety. And then, around the corner, you’re presented with the theatre. A feature of Lincoln Theatre, adding to its many cool points, is the way it’s laid out. It’s easy to get a great view of the band, and you’re in an intimate setting to see nationally-known bands. You have four levels to choose from in the theatre, and the sound is great at every level:

  • The floor: You can get right in front of the stage and jump around with the crowd to bands like Less Than Jake.
  • Tiered levels behind the floor: You can get a wide view of the stage here, and if you’re short in height like I am, you can see above people’s heads!
  • Balcony-level: Open during select shows, this offers a really cool overhead view of the stage (and it’s pretty entertaining to look down on the floor-level crowd when dance parties break out).



Snagging my spot in front of the stage, I observed the “awesomeness” that is the sound system at Lincoln Theatre. If you’re a sound techie, you might be interested in this: check out the technical specs here! On one of the tiered levels, you can even look back and catch a glimpse of the sound booth.

When the first out of the three punk rock opening acts cranked up, you could feel the sub woofer in your chest (a feeling that’s welcomed and adored by many Music Maniacs). Being right up at the stage, I was not only able to hear the powerful sound system, but I could also hear the onstage sound. It was especially great because one of the guitarists from the band Hostage Calm had a Vox head and an Orange cabinet. The tone was crisp, crunchy and delightful. That brings me to another tip: If you check out a rock show at Lincoln Theatre, or any venue in Greater Raleigh, have some ear plugs on hand. That way, if the music is too loud for your taste, you can take in the show right up front more comfortably. And more importantly, you can protect your hearing.

So back to that environment and situation where you can’t contain your energy: As the first bands played, you could feel an urge to move. Heads bobbed and the crowd jumped higher and higher as the night went on. Almost People, Pentimento and Hostage Calm all fed the excitement of the night with high-energy punk rock originals. Hostage Calm even played a polished cover of Billy Idol’s “Dancing with Myself,” which the crowd went crazy for. At that moment especially, there was absolutely no restraining the crowd’s urge to dance.

Finally, the moment the crowd had been waiting for came. Less Than Jake’s large band banner rose and back-lined the stage, and soon the band stormed the stage. The positivity and “fun factor” of the band lit up the room and you could tell they were truly happy to perform. This celebration sparked the crowd to cheer louder and louder. The band consists of a saxophone player, a trombone player, a vocalist/guitarist, a vocalist/bassist and drummer, and they definitely took full advantage of the spacious stage by running back and forth and jamming. With the combination of the slick tones of the horns, the round bass tones, the deep bass drum kick and tight snare and the full sound of the guitar, I couldn’t get enough of the sound. The band was truly fun and entertaining.


New and old, the songs Less Than Jake played almost forced everyone to move in the venue. Singer/guitarist Chris DeMakes said at one point, “You guys came out in droves tonight!” This was a much anticipated show for fans. Seeing the band at Lincoln Theatre was especially great. With the whole atmosphere of the venue, I really felt like I was hanging out with the band. Several times, vocalist/bassist Roger Manganelli came to the side of the stage where I was and rocked out with my side of the crowd.


After a good number of songs, I moved back to get a wide view of the stage. It was pretty fun watching the crowd going wild in the center of the floor. At one point, DeMakes requested for the flood lights at the venue to be turned on. The light engulfed the crowd and it was great to see how many people were smiling, laughing and having an exceptional night.


The night came to an end after Less Than Jake’s close-to-two-hour set, and it was such an entertaining and captivating set that it felt much longer. It’s easy to get lost in the music when its energy and sound surrounds you.

If you’ve never been able to catch a show at Lincoln Theatre, I highly recommend it. The venue hosts shows featuring different genres year round, and brings on talented local and touring bands. So if punk rock is not your favorite, there are still plenty of shows to take in. After all, Greater Raleigh does offer more live music than any other destination in North Carolina.

Check out Lincoln Theatre upcoming shows here, and enjoy a summer of wall-to-wall live music in Greater Raleigh.

When I heard that the North Carolina Symphony was putting on Symphonic Mashup: The Music of Radiohead Meets Brahms, I knew that I had to be there. A fan of all genres of music, this sounded like an awesome concert for me to take in. And I was not alone in that thinking. I was among many Music Maniacs who took in this North Carolina Symphony Special Event at the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts (2 E. South St., downtown Raleigh). Whether you’re an art rocker or a classical music aficionado, or both, you woulda’ loved this event.

Check out these stellar aspects of the night:

The Special Event: First of all, North Carolina Symphony wonderfully planned the opening act. Musicians Ari Picker and Emma Nadeau, of the band Lost in the Trees, opened the concert with calm, yet emotionally intense original music. The band proved to the audience that there is an abundance of undeniable musical talent surrounding the area. Check Lost in the Trees out at Hopscotch Music Festival 2013!


So to see and hear the North Carolina Symphony not only beautifully and elegantly play orchestrations by Brahms but also rock tunes off of Radiohead’s OK Computer, and then on top of that, to hear them played both together, was truly a stellar experience.


The mashup was actually created and arranged by composer, conductor, arranger and producer Steve Hackman. North Carolina Symphony vice president Martin Sher had prevously worked with Hackman, and so this helped sparked the idea of bringing Hackman’s musical creation to Greater Raleigh.

So the event came and so did the Music Maniacs. Appropriately, Hackman conducted the North Carolina Symphony and the three vocalists who sang the lyrics and melodies of the Radiohead songs. (Another cool tidbit is that the three professional vocalists have all worked with Hackman tremendously on performances of the mashup previously, so the vocals were seasoned to perfection.) Radiohead and Brahms have both elegant and chaotic sounds in their compositions, so hearing them together flowed very naturally. The performance included Radiohead songs “Paranoid Android,” “Karma Police,” “Subterranean Homesick Alien” (my favorite track on that album) and more. When the performance kicked off with a beautifully done rendition of “Airbag,” I knew I was in for a treat. Check out Hackman’s description of the mashup and the song list here.

Listening to the music was, hands down, like being on an intense roller coaster ride, but you still had enough chances to get lost and absorb the moment. At times, listening to the audience was entertaining as well. The crowd was clearly having a great time. At one point after a song, and in the dead of silence, an audience member yelled out, “Yeah!” Hackman paused, looked back and replied with delight and a smile, “Yeah?” The audience laughed, clapped and without words said, “We’re absolutely loving this and you all are putting on an amazing performance!”


This event in particular was only the beginning of North Carolina’s Symphony event schedule for the summer! So you’ll have more chances to see the symphony go beyond the bounds of traditional classical music this season.

The Venue: Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts continues to prove that it’s one of the hottest venues for live music in North Carolina. The architecture of the exterior itself lends you the realization that world-class concerts happen inside of the venue. Check out the photo below. I always jump on the opportunity to take some photos of this intriguing building.


The venues inside of the building include the Memorial Auditorium, Meymandi Concert Hall, A.J. Fletcher Opera Theater and Kennedy Theatre. Meymandi Concert Hall, where this mashup concert took place, helped set the mood for the performance. This remarkable venue boasts 1,700 very comfortable seats. And the 65-ft. ceiling, shoebox shape, overall design and warm, clear sound system all worked together to give the Radiohead and Brahms mashup the absolute best sound possible. You’ve got to experience the acoustics at a concert when you’re in Greater Raleigh! Also, the lighting fueled the emotions of the pieces of music, with warm blues and purples, intense oranges and greens and more.

The Musicians in the Symphony: I couldn’t leave out a mention of the musicians in the North Carolina Symphony! As I was sitting, watching the musicians in the orchestra, I couldn’t help but notice the way they mingled with each other and talked, looking enthusiastic and thrilled about playing together. At this show in particular, the orchestra casually made their way to their seats, warming up and mingling before the show started. Seeing the positivity on stage just made the night even better. I think it goes without saying at this point that the talent of the musicians is phenomenal. The musical quality was top-notch, proving once again that the North Carolina Symphony is a symphony every Music Maniac would enjoy seeing.


The Events Surrounding the Event: North Carolina Symphony adds some really cool touches to its Special Events that make the events even more unique and “special.” At Symphonic Mashup: The Music of Radiohead Meets Brahms, the North Carolina Symphony invited food trucks to set up in front of the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts in the scenic plaza. Lots of concert-goers were hanging out, dining and mingling before the show, getting pumped for the performance. The venue also offered local craft beers, and you could have a delicious ale while watching the show!

On Friday, June 7, for the symphony’s Video Games Live event, there will be a huge before-the-show Guitar Hero competition. The winner will get to compete on stage!

At the Sci-Fi Spectacular event on Thurs., June 27, and Fri., June 28, George Takei, “Mr. Sulu,” of Star Trek will be in Greater Raleigh to narrate your journey through the galaxy, live, accompanied by music from E.T., Star Wars, Close Encounters of the Third Kind and, of course, Star Trek. A must-see for Trekkies!

As Greater Raleigh has the most live music of any destination in N.C., you know there are more North Carolina Symphony Special Events coming up this summer!


On Sat., June 8, the North Carolina Symphony will head to Koka Booth Amphitheatre for its Summerfest Series Classical Mystery Tour concert. The orchestra is going kick out The Beatles tunes such as “Eleanor Rigby,” “Penny Lane,” “Yesterday” and much more. This concert celebrates the 45th anniversary of the release of The Beatles’ White Album. Get some sun and feel the awesome N.C. summer weather while you listen to music from one of the greatest bands in history.

Don’t miss the Jerry Garcia Symphonic Celebration featuring Warren Haynes on Thurs., June 20. Greater Raleigh is the only spot in the Southeast where this tour will stop! This ground-breaking orchestral adventure will feature Garcia’s original compositions and classical interpretations of timeless standards that were hallmarks of Garcia and the Grateful Dead’s concerts. A blend of Warren Haynes’s critically-acclaimed guitar playing, the sounds of the North Carolina Symphony and the music of Jerry Garcia is sure to have Music Maniacs talking.

Click here for a complete calendar that lists every live music event in Greater Raleigh this summer!

North Carolina Symphony’s official website


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