Over the past few years, Durham has received its fair share of national attention thanks to celebrated restaurants, swanky hotels, and eclectic cultural activities, but it’s time for the local music scene to have its moment in the spotlight. We’ve got something for every type of music lover. On any given weekend you’ll find Broadway performances and major hip hop concerts, or soulful jazz shows and rocking indie bands. From elegant theaters and outdoor venues to internationally-recognized music festivals, there’s plenty for the music-focused visitor to explore in the Bull City.
Tasteful Theaters and Casual Concert Halls
Carolina Theatre – Since 1926, the Carolina Theatre has been the cornerstone of live entertainment in Durham. The intimate venue hosts a wide range of music artists, with past performers including Aimee Mann, David Crosby, and Judy Collins.
Durham Performing Arts Center – Sleek and modern, DPAC is the premier performing arts center in Durham, welcoming concerts from global music artists as well as touring Broadway productions. This year they’ll celebrate their 10th anniversary, and you’ll have the opportunity to see a diverse set of performances including Motown powerhouse Smokey Robinson, Broadway smash hit Hamilton and British rocker, James Bay.
One-of-a-kind Music Festivals
Moogfest – After an excellent festival on May 17–20 this year, this music, art, and technology festival will be in Durham again next year from April 25-28, 2019 for a weekend filled with dozens of electronic musical acts, panel discussions , interactive exhibits, and demonstrations involving cutting-edge technologies.
Durham Blues & Brews Festival – The blues genres will be on full display again next year on May 18 with soulful performances and brewed accompaniments by way of North Carolina craft beer (we’re talking full 12 ounce pours, too)! This annual festival is held at Durham Central Park and proceeds benefit local Durham charities and programs.
Festival for the Eno – The annual Festival for the Eno is the place to be on 4th of July weekend in Durham, with more than 70 bands across four stages, a craft market, an international food court and of course plenty of fun along the Eno River. (July 4 and July 7)
Art of Cool Festival – Jazz, hip hop, funk, and soul music take center stage at the Art of Cool Festival, a weekend filled with A-list musicians (Nas and Erykah Badu will perform this year), an innovation conference and parties and events across Downtown Durham. (Sept 26–28)
Beyú Caffé – The recently expanded Beyú Caffé offers refined southern cuisine for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, as well as live jazz on Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays, and live Latin music (complete with dance lessons) on the third Thursday of the month.
The Blue Note Grill – Enjoy live blues and bluegrass music every night at the Blue Note Grill while enjoying a plate of classic North Carolina pulled pork barbecue.
Motorco Music Hall – Motorco is just about everything you could want in a music venue: a spacious standing-room only showroom for live performances (both free and ticketed), a giant outdoor patio, and a connecting restaurant called Parts & Labor for global street food-inspired snacks and a full liquor license.
The Pinhook – Beloved by locals, the Pinhook is a fun and casual dive bar where you can check out the latest artists on the indie scene, or hop on the stage for some impromptu karaoke.
Harmonies Under the Sun
American Tobacco Campus – Generally held from May to September, the American Tobacco Campus hosts American Tobacco Music on the Lawn, a free concert series featuring both regional and national artists.
Duke Performances offers an affordable summer series at the Sarah P. Duke Gardens entitled Music in the Gardens, and their recently announced week-long festivals Black Atlantic and In the Jazz Tradition are well worth putting on your calendar for the coming months.
Brightleaf Square – Spend every other Friday in the Brightleaf Square District at a free summer concert series, from June until mid-September. Bring your own lawn chair!
Durham Central Park – as the meeting spot for yoga in the park, both the Durham Farmers’ Market and Durham Craft Market, Durham Central Park is the epicenter of outdoor entertainment in Bull City. From June 8 through August 10, don’t miss their annual PLAYlist Concert Series, headlined this year by soul Americana artist, Valerie June.