Outdoor music festival season in North Carolina starts big this month, with two of the state’s favorite homegrown acts – James Taylor and the Avett Brothers – plus Hollywood leading man Common appearing at festivals at month’s end.
Prior to Common and some 50 other hip-hop and jazz stars coming to Durham for the Art of Cool Festival April 27-30, and Taylor and the Avetts gracing MerleFest in Wilkesboro (also April 27-30), four other festivals get the season going in Raleigh and nearby Selma:
▪ Rock ’n’ Roll Marathon in Raleigh April 1-2 is centered on foot races and a health and fitness expo that begins Friday, but about a dozen bands are to play Saturday and Sunday as part of the festivities. Raleigh bands Down by Five, Will McBride Band and two more play outside the Raleigh Convention Center starting at 10 a.m. Saturday, and ’90s alt-rock hit-makers Cracker headline a post-race show, which begins at 8 a.m. Sunday at Red Hat Amphitheater. Several bands are to play along the race course, as well. It’s all free, except for fees to enter the runs. Info: runrocknroll.com/raleigh.
▪ Live & Local: Spring Fest in Raleigh April 8, a new festival put on by a Hillsborough Street economic development group, presents Chatham County Line, Saludos Compay and four more local bands, plus a youth stage, art vendors curated by Artsplosure, yoga classes, craft beer and a kids’ zone. It’s at Hillsborough Street near Enterprise Street, and Compiegne Park. Noon-8:30 p.m. Free. Info: hillsboroughstreet.org.
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▪ Beach Fest in Selma April 8 brings Jim Quick and Coastline, Band of Oz, The Embers and Hip Pocket to The Farm, a special events venue just off Interstate 95. Noon. $20 in advance, $25 day of show; age 5 and younger free. Info: thefarmnc.com.
▪ North Carolina ’Cuegrass Festival in Raleigh April 15 presents five bands along with barbecue and beer sales in the ninth annual charity festival put on by The Pit restaurant. The lineup includes Raleigh Americana band Old Habits and Charlotte’s Time Sawyer. Noon on West Davie Street downtown. $5, age 12 and younger free. Info: cuegrass.com.
▪ MerleFest: James Taylor appears the evening of April 28 as part of The Transatlantic Sessions Tour with Jerry Douglas and Aly Bain and featuring Taylor, Sarah Jarosz, Maura O’Connell, Joe Newberry and several other American, Irish and Scottish artists. Each guest is to perform their own small set and with the entire group. The Avett Brothers play April 27 and 29, and individual band members lead workshops April 28 and 29. More than 90 more acts, including Zac Brown Band, Marty Stuart and His Fabulous Superlatives and Bela Fleck, play 13 stages on the Wilkes Community College campus over the four days. Daily: $35-$75; three-day: $155-$170; four-day: $180-$190; four-day reserved seats: $235. Info: merlefest.org.
▪ Art of Cool: In addition to Common at DPAC on April 29, George Clinton, Revive Big Band, Rakim, Alex Isley, Braxton Cook and 50 more play the Carolina Theatre, Motorco Music Hall and other downtown Durham venues over four days. Common: $59-$229; daily: $65; two-day: $115; VIP: $265. Info: aocfestival.org.
Get more information about these and seven more April music festivals in North Carolina at carolinamusicfests.com.