Music, Festivals & Performing Arts in the Asheville, North Carolina Area
Asheville is home to many live music venues and events that draw local talent and top national performers. On any given night, these venues offer up a diverse musical range– from folk to bluegrass and mountain music to experimental jazz and rock. During the summer months enjoy musical events such as Shindig on the Green and Friday after Five. In addition to musical events there are any number of festivals in Asheville and the surrounding areas. Asheville is host to the largest free outdoor street festival in the southeast: Bele Chere , when the entire downtown turns over its streets to music and art. There are also a number of other notable and unique festivals throughout the year emphasizing music, arts, beer, sports and the downright funky. Performing Arts are plentiful with an array of community theatres, The Asheville Symphony, contemporary dance and opera.
Some of the local venues include: The Orange Peel, which has earned an international reputation as one of the best live music venues in the country. Rolling Stone magazine included it in its list of “Top Five Rock Clubs in the County.” The Peel hosts a variety of music acts from everywhere and of all genres. Thomas Wolfe Auditorium, located in downtown Asheville is home to The Asheville Symphony and Asheville Bravo. Thomas Wolfe Auditorium also hosts opera, ballet, dance, and concerts. The Grey Eagle features live music performances by a wide range of locally, regionally and nationally touring bluegrass, rockabilly, jazz, rock, indie-rock, folk and blues artists. The Biltmore Estate offers an outdoor summer concert series.
A number of the larger events are explained below however we recommend you visit Explore Asheville for a complete listing of all events throughout the year.
Every Saturday in summer, Shindig on the Green, a free mountain bluegrass music, and dance festival happens. In 2012 Shindig on the Green, returns to its original location – formerly known as City County Plaza, now transformed into the new Pack Square Park. Locals and visitors alike gather on blankets and lawn chairs at approximately 7:00pm to 10:00p.m to hear the music true to the traditions of Southern Appalachia.
Every third Friday beginning in May through September, Downtown After Five provides free live music and entertainment on the street in downtown Asheville.
In a not to be missed site on every Friday night spring through fall, Pritchard Park in downtown Asheville hosts a Drum Circle. The Asheville Drum Circle is a 9-year tradition where you will find locals dancing and playing music. Bring a percussive instrument, and join in!
In July, Bele Chere, the largest free outdoor street festival in the Southeast takes place. This three-day festival features live music all day and night for 200,000 festival-goers. Bele Chere offers the distinctive opportunity to see some of the region’s finest art, taste a wide variety of cuisines and amazing music. Arts and crafts vendors will travel from all over the country to set up shop in the streets of Asheville and take part in the festival. Taste of Asheville at Pack Square features offerings from many local restaurants.
In August Moogfest hosts artists and audiences from around the world, featuring more than 60 electronic music acts, workshops, panels, films and more. This annual event honors the extraordinary vision of Robert Moog and his incredible musical inventions that revolutionized the course of music forever. Moog festival also offers the opportunity to engage with artists in panel discussions, question and answer sessions, and workshops. The festival will also offer installations, visual art exhibitions, and film screenings during the week.
The Asheville Fringe Arts festival is an annual multiple venue show whose main goal is to develop and showcase emerging and experienced local artists who are exploring new medias and forms of expressions that are often overlooked in the main stream of performance in Asheville. Artists of all types of genres and media (movement, theatre, music, spoken word, puppetry, spectacle and more) to present original and modern performance art to a culturally bold audience.
Lexington Ave Arts and Fun Festival (LAAFF) is now 2 day end-of-summer festival highlighting Asheville’s musical and artistic communities. This is where funky gets really funky…you will find the coolest street performers, vaudeville, fire dancers, break dancers, hula hoopers, freak fashions and circus arts covering three blocks of Lexington Ave in downtown Asheville. Local art, beer, food and music will be in abundance.
Not to be confused with LAAFF, Lake Eden Arts Festival (LEAF) is one of the cherished traditions for folks across the southeast and beyond during a weekend in May and October at Camp Rockmont in Black Mountain. LEAF is well known for its multi-cultural music, dance, arts, and outdoor adventures.
Each year the Brewgrass Festival held in September gathers over 40 American breweries, to showcase more than 120 different beers and national and regional bluegrass musicians. This is a popular festival and tickets sell out very fast.
Is it any surprise that a city voted “Beer City USA” would also have a Beer City Festival. This festival showcases the best craft beers brewed in the Carolinas. The Brewgrass folks have teamed up with the Asheville Brewer’s Alliance to add a spring Beer Festival. It’s probably safe to say tickets for this event go quickly too.
The annual Mountain Sports Festival is a 3 day outdoor sport, music and beer festival that caters to the serious athlete or a beginner wanting to participate in an event for the first time. Races and competitions in paddling, adventure racing, cycling, running, disc golf, ultimate Frisbee, climbing, skateboarding and many other events take place all weekend long. There are clinics in bike maintenance, throwing/catching, yoga, fly casting, longboarding, paddleboarding, chi running and ultimate Frisbee. And if you are thirsty after competing or sitting through a clinic, MSF has teamed up with Beer Jam to quench your thirst. And what would any Asheville festival be without music. On stage you can hear jazz, bluegrass, blues, rock and funk.
If its performing arts you are interested in Asheville and the surrounding area has many theatres. Among these is the Flat Rock Playhouse which presents the best of Broadway musicals, comedy and drama from May through December. The Diana Wortham Theatre in downtown Asheville is a 500-seat theatre hosting more than 150 performances annually by professional touring artists and local arts organizations. Asheville Community Theatre, the longest running community theatre group in Asheville featues outstanding productions of dramas, comedies, and musicals. Asheville Contemporary Dance Theatre is our modern dance company presenting a diverse repertory, both experimental and traditional. Fine Arts Theatre is a magnificently renovated older movie house in downtown dedicated to first-run and independent films. For additional information on more theatres and performance schedules visit Explore Asheville.
It would be difficult to list all of the cultural events taking place in Asheville, especially as new ones are added all the time. Two great resources for information on all the area festivals are RomanticAsheville.com Travel Guide and Explore Asheville. And of course your Asheville Inn innkeeper will be happy to help you plan your trip.