Music fans in Virginia have no shortage of outdoor concerts, music venues and festivals in the state. But sometimes you need more than just music on a stage. You need to get a real experience. Go back in time and discover Virginia’s music heritage or immerse yourself in the music culture of these destinations.
Carter Family Fold – Hiltons, Va.
The Carter Family Fold was founded by Janette Carter, daughter of A.P. and Sara, who with Sara’s sister Maybelle, are considered the “First Family of Country Music.” Janette’s daughter Rita is carrying on the musical and performing legacy the family established. The original Carter Family lived on this hallowed ground at the foot of Clinch Mountain. The 1,000-seat music center, which recently celebrated its 40th anniversary, hosts old time, bluegrass and country music every Saturday night and there’s a dance floor that’s usually packed at every show with people of every age clogging and flat-footing.
Tuesday Verses at Addis Ethiopian Restaurant – Richmond, Va.
Tuesday Verses is a weekly open mic night for music and poetry that takes place at Addis Ethiopian Restaurant. It started at a venue called Tropical Soul before moving to its new home at Addis and has been running for the last 12 years. It’s promoted as a simple open mic night, but it’s so much more than that. The energy fills the room before people even go up to perform. And when they do, nobody is quiet. Whether it’s hip hop, soul, blues or spoken word, on stage, people are cheering and clapping and having a great time. During the evening, everyone is ordered to get up and meet someone in the crowd that they don’t know. It’s very much like a church environment, where everyone is friendly and happy to meet everyone else. The love and support fills the room as the music plays.
Hardee’s Tuesday Morning Jamboree – Stanleytown, Va.
Every Tuesday morning, residents of Stanleytown get up bright and early and head over to the local Hardee’s for breakfast and coffee – and to see some of the best old style country and gospel music performed live.
The unconventional music venue features “The Hardee Bunch,” a group that involves more than 25 musicians. They set up in a corner to play and entertain special requests from the audience. The Jamboree started in 1994 as a birthday celebration for a member celebrating his 91st birthday. Because it was such a hit, the group decided to meet each week to play. The weekly event has become so popular, it’s standing room only most days and full of toe tapping, clapping, singing along and occasional dancing.
Strange Matter – Richmond, Va.
Richmond, Va. is known for its active punk rock history. The city is perhaps best known for shock-metal band GWAR, as well as many other punk and metal names like Lamb of God, Avail, Strike Anywhere, and others. One can’t call themselves a punk fan without a visit to Richmond. Strange Matter, located at 929 West Grace Street, has housed a punk rock club for nearly three decades. It was most famously known as Twisters throughout the 1990s, and since then has been known as Club 929, The Nanci Raygun, and Bagel Czar before it re-opened in 2009 as Strange Matter. The club hosts up-and-coming local and national touring acts in the punk, metal, experimental and hardcore genres nearly every night. It’s small, dirty and loud, but just the way a punk venue should be. Going to Strange Matter puts you in the middle of Richmond’s rock history to see where big names started while catching new acts who could make it big.
Bluegrass Jam at The Old Furniture Factory – Round Hill, Va.
Indeed the 1880s Old Furniture Factory was, indeed, a furniture factory. Built by the Howell Brothers, it has grown from the original small two-story to the larger building you now see. It has operated as a schoolhouse, grocery store, tin shop, prohibition-era speak-easy, general store, wood shop for historic reproduction cabinetry, and finally, a community mecca for art and music. The last Friday night of the month is when you can enjoy the Bluegrass Jam, which sometimes mashes Folk, Celtic and Old Time into the mix. It’s informal and has great BBQ for purchase from Savoir Fare.
Wine Down Friday at Draper Mercantile – Draper, Va.
For more than 125 years the locals have found Draper Mercantile to be a great place to commune. Along with that comes musical performances from those who live there and those who don’t. The standing Friday night event at the Mercantile is Wine Down Friday, a casual, intimate gathering that includes Virginia wine, craft beer, appetizers, and a new performer each week. Genres have included country, folk, bluegrass, classic rock, blues and jazz.
Friday Night Jamboree at Floyd Country Store – Floyd, Va.
The Floyd Country Store in Floyd, Va. is a real country store that serves old-fashioned candy, hand-dipped ice cream, homemade country food and a great collection of hard-to-find old-time and bluegrass CDs and music accessories. The Friday Night Jamboree brings people each week to dance, enjoy and play gospel, old-time, and bluegrass music – and everyone feels welcome. The crowd usually spills out into the street as it’s one of the most popular events in the area. You can find groups that can be found picking outside or upstairs in the store from 6:30 p.m. until the store’s closing time around 11:30 p.m.
Where is your favorite place to get an authentic music experience in Virginia? Leave a comment to give a shout-out.