Diggin’ the Amazing Music Scene in Asheville, NC
If Live Music is Your Jam, Then Asheville is the Place to Be
By Asheville Insider
I’ve been coming to see live music in Asheville since the 1990s. Back then, clubs like Stella Blue and Be Here Now were places you could go see musicians such as Jimmy Herring play a set and then have a drink with you at the bar. Fast forward decades later, and not much has changed as far as that - right before the pandemic I had a drink with Herring’s now Widespread Panic bandmate JoJo Hermann at The One Stop after his Slim Wednesday show at Asheville Music Hall. What has changed is that new venues, bars and clubs are opening as fast as the population is growing, so there’s even more opportunity to see a band of almost every genre, most days of the week. On Monday nights, West Asheville is the place to be, where you could catch local singer-songwriter Taylor Martin hosting his Open Mic at Haywood Country Club. His featured artists have included folks from members of Songs From the Road Band to Nashville’s Rorey Caroll to mandolin player Bobby Miller of the Virginia Dare Devils. A few blocks east on Haywood Road, One World West holds its Mashup Mondays, when The JLoyd MashUp and different weekly guests funk it up with soul, jazz, Afrobeat and more. Speaking of funk, Asheville Music Hall has reinstated a Land of the Sky tradition with its weekly Tuesday Night Funk Jam. The legendary house band, led by Derrick Johnson of Yo Mama’s Big Fat Booty Band, has gotten locals and visitors dancing into Hump Day since 2008. If you’re unable to make it a late night, The One Stop downstairs holds an Early Tuesday Jam as well.
Wednesday nights are Western at The Double Crown, a locals’ dive bar that also has an impressive bourbon selection. Some Wednesdays you can participate in country karaoke with the support of a live band; or, perhaps get asked to dance a two-step with someone in full western wear. Other Wednesdays, you might be toe tappin’ to an album release party. Down the road, you can hear honky tonk some nights at Fleetwood’s, also known for its punk shows, weekly vintage flea markets and wedding chapel. That’s right, you can buy a 60s wedding dress and get married in the same place while a hip band serenades you. Thursdays, the place to head is downtown, where nationally traveling guitarist Drew Matulich has hosted stars from Darren Nicholson to Lyndsay Pruett at the legendary Jack of the Wood’s weekly bluegrass jam. You’ll never know who will show up on the Ralph Lewis memorial stage, named after the local master musician who was one of Bill Monroe’s Bluegrass Boys. Another historic downtown venue is The Orange Peel, which boasts shows from national and world touring acts such as Bob Dylan and The Flaming Lips. The Peel, which was once named by Rolling Stone Magazine as one of the top five rock clubs in the nation, also holds local fundraisers and has been the site of pre- and post- Warren Haynes Christmas jam shows that people are seriously STILL talking about. The weekends are full of shows at various outdoor venues from late spring to early fall. Rabbit Rabbit, a collaboration between Asheville Brewing Company and The Orange Peel, has already hosted the likes of Jason Isbell, Joe Russo’s Almost Dead and the Trey Anastasio Band.
Another popular outdoor place to see shows is Salvage Station, situated by the French Broad River. From local rockers Acoustic Syndicate to bluegrass hometown boys gone big Town Mountain to Ziggy Marley and George Clinton, it’s hard to not head down by the river to break in your boogie shoes. A little further on down the river - or is it upriver - as the French Broad, one of the world’s oldest rivers, is also one of two rivers in the United States that flows north - is The Outpost, The Grey Eagle’s new venue. The scoop is that the folks running it have lots in store for the upcoming cooler season - and maybe even a surprise or two. Meanwhile, The Grey Eagle continues to have shows on its outdoor and indoor stage most nights. Some very special moments have happened at this longtime favorite - like Graham Sharp of The Steep Canyon Rangers playing an intimate show on the patio, to seeing Phil Lesh get up unannounced and jam a few tunes with his son Grahame’s band Midnight North. And moving away from the river is the new Ole Shakey’s, which recently relocated downtown. In the old spot on the river, former partners have opened The Getaway River Bar, which has created regular events of its own signature, such as honky tonk drag shows and techno dance parties. Winding down the week back in West Asheville, you can enjoy a delicious dinner and cocktails while you watch music on the acclaimed stage at Isis Music Hall. Sundays - or really most days of the week - you can catch anything from jazz to old-time to rock-n-roll. This is just the beginning of your music journey in Asheville. Next time we’ll hop in with local rideshare drivers at AVL Ride and visit some of the outlying areas for live music. Until then, stay tuned to Dig Local and WNCW and Asheville FM to see where you might catch your next show. Maybe you’ll even cheers with one of the musicians afterward… in Asheville, anything can happen.