Music News & Reviews

May music fests across the Triangle offer distinct choices for fans

Sonny Landreth is one of several musicians performing at this year’s Artsplosure which takes place in downtown Raleigh from May 20-22.
Sonny Landreth is one of several musicians performing at this year’s Artsplosure which takes place in downtown Raleigh from May 20-22. Invision/AP

May music festivals in the Triangle offer distinct choices both in music and festival style – and the big ones are all happening on two weekends.

This weekend we get the spring edition of the Shakori Hills Grassroots Festival of Music and Dance, which began Thursday and runs through Sunday in Silk Hope; and the Art of Cool Festival, a jazz festival, running Friday through Sunday in Durham.

▪ Shakori Hills presents about 50 shows on four stages at a 100-acre farm outside Pittsboro this weekend. The festival also offers many family-friendly activities, including games, children’s activities, yoga sessions, a drum circle and camping. Jam-band stalwarts Donna the Buffalo host and welcome the Punch Brothers, Danay Suarez, Big Mean Sound Machine, Dr. Bacon and more.

Four-day tickets are $124 for adults; daily admission is $42 Friday-Saturday, $32 Thursday and Sunday. Early activities start at 9 a.m. with main stage shows closer to noon each day. Info:

▪ Art of Cool this weekend presents jazz and jazz-influenced music in more than 20 performances at six indoor venues within walking distance from one another in downtown Durham. On Friday evening, Terence Blanchard plays at the Carolina Theatre while Kamasi Washington and Nicholas Payton and two more perform at the Durham Armory, and multi-act shows play at the Beyu Caffe, Pinhook and PSI Theatre. Saturday has 20 shows from noon to after midnight at the various festival sites. Sunday morning, PJ Morton closes the festival with a show at the Armory.

Several ticket packages are available, including an all-access VIP Pass for $285, and the Saturday club pass to Motorco, Pinhook, the Armory and PSI Theatre for $50. Info:

▪ Moogfest, happening May 19-22, relocates from Asheville to Durham with about 90 electronic and avant-garde acts at more than 35 indoor and outdoor stages in the American Tobacco complex and at several other venues downtown. Headliners include ODESZA, Grimes, Miike Snow, Gary Numan, GZA, Laurie Anderson, Explosions in the Sky, Blood Orange and sunn O))). Reggie Watts tops the list of several free performances. There will also be dozens of speakers and workshops about the future of creativity and electronic music, as well as film screenings, art installations, an audio electronics marketplace and more.

Tickets are $249 for a four-day pass; $499 for a VIP pass (comes with priority access to shows and programs and additional perks). There will be some tickets for individual shows, and a limited number of daily tickets at $149 Thursday-Saturday and $69 Sunday. Info:

▪ Artsplosure takes place in downtown Raleigh the same weekend – May 20-22. The annual street festival presents a blues-heavy trio of headliners, with Doyle Bramhall II, Sonny Landreth and Samantha Fish, as well as 14 more pop, rock, jazz, funk and folk acts on two stages. The free festival also features juried art vendors, a variety of kids’ activities and food and drink vendors. It happens 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Friday-Saturday and 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Sunday. Info:

▪ The Durham Blues and Brews Festival brings Lil’ Ed and the Blues Imperials, Handsome Al and the Lookers featuring Emma Davis, and Cool John Ferguson, plus 20 local craft beer brewers to Durham Central Park, 4-9 p.m. Saturday, May 21. $40, or $20 if you’re not drinking. Info:

Get details about these shows and other May music festivals at

Other May festivals

More festival highlights from across the state:

▪ Carolina Rebellion at Charlotte Motor Speedway May 6-8 with ZZ Top, Five Finger Death Punch, Scorpions, Rob Zombie and more than 50 more. Info:

▪ The LEAF at Black Mountain May 12-15 with Shovels and Rope, Juan De Marcos and the Afro-Cuban All Stars, Fatoumata Diawara, Danay Suarez and about 30 more. Info:

▪ Kinnection Kampout in Horsesho, an electronica festival, with Gaudi, Kaya Project, Govinda, Kaminanda, Birds of Paradise and about 50 more. May 19-22. Info:

▪ Lil John’s Mountain Music Festival in Snow Camp May 26-28 with Dan Tyminski and Ronnie Bowman, Danny Paisley and The Southern Grass, Junior Sisk and Ramblers Choice and 12 more. Info: