Concert Preview

Summertime means outdoor concerts: Mollypop’s guide

Being from Florida, summertime is my favorite time. I love it when it gets so hot and muggy that even the mosquitoes can’t fly and your only refuge is a piece of watermelon, an ice-cold beverage and the music in front of you.

My three favorite outdoor venues in the Triangle allow picnics and sell all of the best local brews. Read on for summer shows to look out for at The North Carolina Museum of Art (NCMA), Sarah P. Duke Gardens, and American Tobacco.

North Carolina Museum of Art:

Located on Blue Ridge Road in Raleigh, NCMA has the largest concert arena of any art museum in the country and as such can bring brings some of the best acts around. I had the opportunity to see Bela Fleck and the Flecktones, Lucinda Williams, and Gillian Welch there last summer.

Summer 2012, NCMA brings us:

AfroCubism:  June 10

If you like Buena Vista Social Club, Malain music, and awesome beats, check this show out.

Doc Watson and Deep River Rising:  June 30

At 89, Doc Watson can still tear up a guitar. If you haven’t heard of Doc Watson but love old-timey music and all things bluegrassy and folk, don’t miss this chance to see one of the trailblazers of this genre.

Andrew Bird w/ Mavis Staples: July 10

Through a collaboration with Cat’s Cradle, indie folk master Andrew Bird will whistle the night away with rhythm and blues goddess Mavis Staples.

Neko Case: July 14

I’ve never seen this woman perform solo, but I had the chance to see her with The New Pornographers a few summers ago. Her voice is everything female vocals should be.

More shows listed later in the summer and further information is available here. Be sure to listen to WKNC all summer, as we usually do a considerable amount of giveaways for these shows. Tickets for these shows range from $15-35, with a discount for children and a prime seating location for members. Parking can be tough: I suggest either arriving early or parking in one of the administrative buildings slightly up Blue Ridge. Get to these shows early so you can spread out your picnic blanket, grab a bottle of wine (sold at the venue) and enjoy the evening.

Sarah P. Duke Gardens:

Located in the heart of Duke’s West Campus, Duke Gardens is a spectacle in itself. 55-acres of native and non-native plants provide the perfect backdrop (and aroma) for the summer concert series. Doors (gates?) open at 6:30, so be sure to set up early behind the Visitor’s Center. I’ve never had the chance to come to one of these shows, but as I’ll be living less than 3 miles away this summer, they’ll have to pry me away. All of the artists presented here are local indie acts.

The Beast + Big Band: June 6

Local hip-hop infused with jazz.

The Old Ceremony: June 13

Indie rock bordering “dad rock,” but in a good way.

Dex Romweber and the New Romans: June 21

I love this description from Independently Weekly, “noir-tinged Americana”

Bombadil: June 27

Rolling indie rock infused with folk, teddy bears, and a bit of sorrow

Mandolin Orange: July 11

One of the best duos around, keeping traditional folk alive with modern inspiration

Midtown Dickens: July 18

Playful and thoughtful, their music makes you literally sing along “this is the best summer ever”

Megafaun: July 25

Do I need to describe these guys? Experimental folk with deep themes and beards.

More information about the shows and tickets is available here. Tickets are $12, with a $5 discounted price for Duke employees and students. There is a cafe on site selling full meals, snacks, wine, and beer. You’ll find me sneaking in some watermelon slices and lemonade. Parking is available after 5 p.m. for free in the Garden Lots. Be careful with parking outside of the garden; Campus Police will get ya!

American Tobacco

Located next to WUNC in the American Tobacco Campus, this venue is secluded with restaurants and shops on all sides and arranged perfectly for concerts. The audience is separated from the band by a moat, which keeps the ravenous fan girls like me off banjo players like Chatham County Line’s Chandler Holt. It also sets the stage, literally, with the babbling of water and a home-town feel as the band plays under the water tower. Like the other venues presented here, they are very family friendly and allow for picnics and serve all of the best beverages.

Music Maker Relief Foundation Blues Revue: May 11

I saw these guys at Shakori Hills and it was like watching the history of Blues before your eyes.

Tony Rice Unit: May 18

Traditional bluegrass, performed immaculately.

Adam Hurt, Stephanie Coleman, and Beth Williams Hartness

Bluegrass trio, with bits of loose mountain music

Pops for Pops: June 17

What better way to celebrate Father’s day than with jazz of all kinds. Durham Jazz Orchestra and Durham Community Concert Band will play all night.

Lizzy Ross Band: June 22

This girl can sing. She is a cute, young musician who can belt out some of jazziest, smoothest music out there. Her band provides a full Americana, folk rock inspired set.

John Brown and the Groove Shop Band: July 4

A 13-piece band full of funk, rhythm, and blues.

Justin Robinson and the Mary Annettes: July 27

Don’t expect Carolina Chocolate Drops sound. Former Drop, Robinson, is experimenting with his musical style with this ethereal genre-break band.

John Howie Jr. and the Rosewood Bluff: August 10

Honky-tonk Americana with an occasional rock-kick.outdoor

For show listings after August 10 and more information, go here. Sponsored in part of by Back Porch Music, all of these shows are family friendly acts with their mind to roots music. All of these shows, unless otherwise noted, are free. There are great restaurants surround the venue and Whole Foods usually sets up a table selling fresh dinners. I usually end up bringing my own snacks, but end up buying a locopop.


Phew. There is a lot going on this summer and I hope that this has helped you formulate a plan of action for shows to see. Did I miss any awesome outdoor venues? Comment with your favorites and maybe I’ll blog about those shows as well!