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16 Toe-Tapping Reasons Asheville is the Next Music City

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Asheville Music CityAsheville, NC -- Asheville, where deep-seated bluegrass roots harmonize with new talent and innovative sounds, is on the verge of becoming one of America's top music cities. From the nation's longest-running folk festival and Grammy-winning musicians to Moog Music and a weekly drum circle, music rings through the air in this Blue Ridge Mountain city. NEW: The sounds and melodies of Asheville can now be heard online via Explore Asheville Radio.

Listen to local artists, plan your visit with the Live Music Calendar, explore unique venues and discover the reasons Asheville is the next music city:


  1. Because the highest peaks in the East provide the best concert backdrop. Venues with a view abound, from Sierra Nevada's outdoor amphitheater to Salvage Station, the area's newest riverfront music venue. A number of events also have awe-inspiring views like LEAF Festival, set on the banks of Lake Eden, and the Biltmore Concert Series, pairing internationally known stars with a mountain sunset view from the South Terrace of Biltmore House.
  2. Because the city inspired a Broadway show. Co-written and produced by Steve Martin, "Bright Star" shined on Broadway early this year with a plot focusing on two love stories set in Asheville. The show received five Tony nominations including "Best Musical."
  3. Because music happens in unexpected places. While venues like The Orange Peel and The Grey Eagle have earned accolades from Rolling Stone and Garden & Gun, Asheville also has a number of under-the-radar music halls. Enjoy dinner and a show at Isis Restaurant & Music Hall, tap your toes at 1940s car dealership-turned-music venue White Horse Black Mountain or hear local musicians jam at Asheville Guitar Bar, a new venue in the River Arts District.
  4. Because musicians are obsessed with Asheville. The city's scenic Blue Ridge backdrop and astounding culture provides the perfect playground for big-time artists. Echo Mountain Recording Studios has hosted notables such as Dierks Bentley and Zac Brown Band, while Crossroads Recording Studios in Arden attracts a number of Gospel, Bluegrass and Americana heavy hitters like Balsam Range. FUN FACT: N.C. natives and Asheville fans The Avett Brothers filmed the music video for "Ain't No Man" at the Asheville Regional Airport.


  1. Because the city has its own soundtrack featuring indie legends and Appalachian songbirds. The recently released Asheville Symphony Sessions pairs the Asheville Symphony Orchestra with musicians like Electric Owls, Shannon Whitworth and Steep Canyon Rangers. Tracks jump from folk to bluegrass to R&B to jazz, all with an orchestra backing. CLICK HERE TO LISTEN
  2. Because the roots are deep – nation's-longest-running-festival-deep. The late Bascom Lamar Lunsford, nicknamed "Minstrel of the Appalachians," organized the Mountain Dance and Folk Festival, the nation's longest-running folk festival, in 1928. The summer-long Shindig on the Green and The Swannanoa Gathering celebrated 50 years and 25 years respectively in 2016.
  3. Because you'll never guess who is from here. The Asheville area has produced a number of legends and Grammy-winning musicians. Giants like Roberta Flack, Nina Simone, Warren Haynes, The Steep Canyon Rangers, David Holt and Doc Watson all have roots in the region. Here's who to look out for next: jazz singer Lizz Wright, sister-duo Rising Appalachia, the harmonizing River Whyless and award-winning composer, producer and performer Ben Lovett.
  4. Because the Father of Electronic Music loved Asheville. Moog Music Factory carries on the innovative spirit of Bob Moog, creator of the Minimoog Analog Synthesizer and Asheville resident for almost 30 years. TIP: After touring the factory, make your own music at the Moog Store – it's the only place in the world where all of Moog's instruments are in one room.
  5. Because we make our own instruments and ones you've never heard of. Our musicians are so talented that they can play a paper bag – or washboard or spoons. There's also the dulcimer and jaw harp. But have you heard of a Woodrow? Asheville instrument maker Dan Williams invented the stringed instrument that was featured in the opening of Lady Antebellum's "Long Stretch of Love." TIP: Woodrow Instrument Company in the Grove Arcade can teach curious customers how to play a song in just a few minutes.


  1. Because the city's heartbeat is a drumming dance party. Locals and visitors have kept the beat for more than 20 years at Asheville's Friday night Drum Circle. Also popular is the annual Asheville Percussion Festival organized by noted beat maker River Guerguerian. TIP: Learn the basics before making your Drum Circle debut with a beginner lesson at Skinny Beats Drum Shop.
  2. Because these funky festivals couldn't exist anywhere but Asheville. The city's personality shines through as its arts culture collides with music during a number of annual festivals. Be sure to check out All Go West, LEAF Downtown Asheville, Barnaroo, Riverfest and RiverMusic. TIP: Stand up paddle board company Wai Mauna offers float trips to RiverMusic throughout the summer.
  3. Because there's a place to dance every night of the week. The One Stop at Asheville Music Hall hosts a Bluegrass Brunch every Sunday, The Grey Eagle offers contra dancing on Mondays and Isis Restaurant & Music Hall has Tuesday Bluegrass Sessions. Plan the rest of your week with Asheville's Live Music Calendar.
  4. Because big-city culture can be found in the Blue Ridge Mountains. It is pretty unusual for a city of Asheville's size to have a professional opera company like Asheville Lyric Opera, with big-name productions, a year-long season, touring shows and the talent of nationally known singers. Other cultured options include shows at Diana Wortham Theatre, the Asheville Chamber Music Series and Asheville Symphony Orchestra.
  5. Because musicians play on every corner. Every corner. From spoons to saxophone to didgeridoo, street performers fill the air with music. TIP: Some of the most popular spots for buskers are the Flat Iron statue on Battery Park Avenue, around the Grove Arcade, along Biltmore Avenue and near Pack Square.
  6. Because in the Craft Beer Mecca of the South, we name beers after our music legends. Asheville blends music and beer to create unique flavors like the "Hanging with the Band" collaboration between Asheville native and American Idol winner Caleb Johnson and Asheville Brewing Co. Also on tap, Pisgah Brewing's LEAF Amber Ale, Sierra Nevada's Warren Haynes Christmas Jam Ale and BARNAbrew ESB from Hi-Wire Brewing. TIP: Many of Asheville's breweries and brewpubs are great locations to hear live local music.
  7. Because Western N.C. is the best place for a musical road trip. Enjoy a guided look at Asheville's music scene via experiences like Asheville Music Tours or LaZoom's new "Band & Beer Bus Tour." The Blue Ridge Music Trails of North Carolina guidebook leads travelers to where folk music and dance still thrive and includes a 20-track companion CD.

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