Music News & Reviews

Outdoor Music Guide 2014

Indigo Girls will play Chatham County’s Shakori Hills GrassRoots Spring Festival this weekend.
Indigo Girls will play Chatham County’s Shakori Hills GrassRoots Spring Festival this weekend. Jeremy Cowart

It took longer than usual for winter to give way to spring this year, but outdoor-music season is finally – FINALLY – upon us. The season commences this weekend with Indigo Girls, Del McCoury and others playing Chatham County’s Shakori Hills GrassRoots Spring Festival, and Raleigh’s Walnut Creek Amphitheatre starts its 24th season Tuesday with longtime favorite Jimmy Buffett.

The area’s other outdoor venues are following close behind. Here are some particulars and one tantalizing tidbit: There might be a Farm Aid show in the Triangle sometime this year with acts including Bruce Springsteen and John Mellencamp (both of whom have offspring at Duke University). Stay tuned!

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Walnut Creek

For the second time in its history, Raleigh’s city-owned 20,000-capacity venue is without a title sponsor. No one has stepped in after Time Warner Cable opted out of its deal last year, so it looks like 2014 will be back to The Creek.

As always, arena-country acts are Walnut Creek’s main focus. Eight of 20 shows on the books so far are country, starting with Lady Antebellum on April 25 and including Dierks Bentley (May 10) and Tim McGraw (June 22). The local charity group “Band Together” will have its next show at Walnut Creek – Hall & Oates on May 3. Walnut Creek already has 20 shows on the schedule for this season, the same number that played there in all of 2013.

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Booth Amphitheatre

Cary’s 7,000-capacity joint has plenty going on, anchored once again by the N.C. Symphony’s nine-event Summerfest. The Symphony will also be at Booth to back up operatic pop singer Josh Groban (Aug. 16). Other highlights include the Willie Nelson/Alison Krauss double bill (May 19), surfer dude Jack Johnson (May 21) and country youngsters The Band Perry (July 13). Booth is also doing its “Hob Nob Jazz Series” on the back deck again with local jazz acts, on Wednesdays starting April 30.

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Red Hat Amphitheater

Downtown Raleigh’s 5,600-capacity amphitheater is also busy and varied, with a healthy dose of alternative rock starting with Cage the Elephant (May 2), Vampire Weekend (June 12) and The Fray (July 14). Also, make plans for R&B mad scientist George Clinton’s Parliament Funkadelic next month (May 17), and this fall’s “Wide Open bluegrass” shows (Oct. 3-4, acts still to be announced).

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N.C. Museum Of Art

Six shows are on the schedule so far, highlighted by a Loudon Wainwright III/Iris Dement double-bill (July 12) and the pairing of R&B singer Lisa Fischer with the acclaimed documentary “20 Feet From Stardom” (July 26). Expect eight to 10 shows by the end of the season.

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Music in the Gardens

Most of the acts at this seven-show Duke Performances series are tied in to Merge Records, the Durham-based label celebrating its 25-year anniversary this year. So look for garage-rockers King Khan and the Shrines (June 3), local heroes Rosebuds (June 25) and singer-songwriter Richard Buckner (July 9).

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Free shows

• On the free-show front, Raleigh’s North Hills district is expanding its offerings this year with Midtown Park, a new amphitheater space that has its grand opening April 26-27 with Legacy Motown Revue and the Embers. The amphitheater will also have a PineCone-sponsored “Sunday Ramble in the Park” bluegrass series, and a Friday Night Tribute Series. The retail area’s Commons will again have its “Midtown Beach Music Series” Thursday evenings through mid-August.

• In Durham, “Find Your Cool” returns with 13 Thursday-evening shows at CCB Plaza, opening with South Carolina Broadcasters on May 8. There’s also a “Warehouse Blues Series” coming to Durham Central Park starting in July (acts to be announced). And where most of Durham’s “Art of Cool Festival” happens at indoor venues April 25-26, it does have a free outdoor portion. Bluesman Mel Melton will be the April 25 headliner at Durham Central Park, and neo-soul artist Cody ChesnuTT is the April 26 headliner at American Tobacco’s Diamond View Park.

• Downtown Raleigh’s City Plaza will be busy with two concert series, the seven-show “Oak City 7” starting in late May and the six-show PineCone-sponsored “Pickin’ in the Plaza” starting in June. Acts have yet to be announced for the latter series, but “OC7” headliners include Fastball (June 26), King’s X (July 10) and the Posies (Aug. 21). Downtown Raleigh’s Artsplosure has a well-above-average lineup this year, with beloved expatriate Tift Merritt May 17 and Texas soul-punk Alejandro Escovedo on May 18.

• Wake Forest has its “Six Sundays” series back at Joyner Park, beginning with the Hot at Nights on April 27. Over in Cary, Bond Park’s Sertoma Amphitheatre has 11 shows highlighted by acclaimed singer-songwriter John McCutcheon on May 3.

• Raleigh’s Cameron Village is presenting the very fine local act The Love Language on April 25, as a tribute of sorts to The Subway – Cameron Village’s long-ago complex of subterranean nightspots that was the center of Raleigh’s live-music nightlife before closing in the early 1980s. But no one should get their hopes up about the Cameron Village Underground turning into nightclubs again; that space is being turned into a receiving and storage area. As Cameron Village management put it in a statement, “Not exciting but necessary. Sometimes all we are left with are the memories.”