As summer – and with it, the music festival season – draws to a close over the next six weeks, North Carolina’s music scene converges on Raleigh and the Triangle with two of the state’s largest festivals, and with several smaller ones here or nearby.
No doubt you have heard of Hopscotch, the mostly alternative music festival bringing about 180 bands to downtown Raleigh Sept. 10-12 (hopscotchmusicfest.com), and Wide Open Bluegrass, which presents 100 bands – 80 playing free shows – Oct. 2-3 downtown. Wide Open Bluegrass is preceded by the Bluegrass Ramble’s slate of 150 performances at seven downtown venues Sept. 29-Oct. 1 (ibma.org/world-of-bluegrass/bluegrass-ramble).
▪ But there’s more than these marquee events to see and hear. On Saturday and Sunday this weekend, the African American Cultural Festival of Raleigh & Wake County celebrates with several activities downtown, including free City Plaza stage shows by Arrested Development, Avery*Sunshine, Innertwyned, Jus Once and seven more. At the same time, the festival’s Family Village along Fayetteville Street will offer educational, hands-on activities; storytelling and dance performances; and an art gallery and vendors. It’s 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Saturday and 1-9 p.m. Sunday, and it’s free. Info: aacfestival.org.
▪ For something completely different, ProgDay’s 21st festival of international progressive rock is Saturday and Sunday on Storybook Farm outside Chapel Hill. Bands include Tryo (from Chile), Quantum Fantay (Belgium), The Mercury Tree (Portland, Ore.), Marbin (Israel and the U.S.) and four more. The daytime show (last bands go on at 5:30 p.m. each day) is an intimate affair on a large lawn, where fans can easily get close to the stage and meet the musicians. Tickets are $120 for a two-day pass, $70 daily; half off for ages 16 to 18 or students, and free for kids up to age 15. There’s also an all-ages pre-show with three bands Friday night at Local 506 in Chapel Hill. Info: progday.net.
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▪ Opposite Hopscotch, the Bull Durham Blues Festival presents a night of R&B on Friday (Sept. 11) with Jean Carne, Norman Connors, the Starship Orchestra and others. There’s blues on Saturday (Sept. 12) with Mississippi bluesman Grady Champion; 2015 Carolina Music Awards Rock Male Artist of the Year Jason Damico and the New Blue; Lawyers, Guns and Money; Pat “Mother Blues” Cohen; and Ebbs and Flow. Friday’s show takes place at the Hayti Center and tickets are $40-$55 with doors opening at 5 p.m. Info at hayti.org. Saturday’s shows are at Durham’s Central Park and are free. Details at bulldurhambluesfestival.com.
Other September festivals
▪ The National Folk Festival begins a three-year run in Greensboro Sept. 11-13 with free shows on seven stages with the likes of Dale Watson, Mavis Staples, Rhiannon Giddens, Los Tres Reyes, Baba Ken Okulolo and the West African Highlife Band and 30 others – plus plenty more arts-oriented exhibitions and activities. Info: nationalfolkfestival.com.
▪ The Apex Jazz Music Festival is in downtown Apex Sept. 19 with Brass-A-Holics, Sidecar Social Club, Downbeat Switch and eight more, plus vendors and a beer garden. It’s on North Salem Street from 3:30 to 11:30 p.m., with club shows to 1 a.m. $10. Info: apexjazzfest.com.
▪ The Carrboro Music Festival is another free show of about 150 Triangle acts playing outdoor stages and indoor venues all over downtown Carrboro on Sept. 26-27. Info: carrboromusicfestival.com.
▪ Live & Local Bluegrass on Hillsborough Street in Raleigh on Sept. 27 presents Lonesome River Band, Lorraine Jordan and Carolina Road, Grass Cats, plus eight more named acts and more TBA on three stages in and around Compiegne Park – and it’s all free. Noon-7 p.m. Info: hillsboroughstreet.org/bluegrass2015.
And at least 20 more festivals are as close as Chatham and Lee counties and as far away as the mountains and the Outer Banks. Get details on all of them at Carolina Music Festivals: carolinamusicfests.com.