by Ben Kinney
As we continue to endure cold-weather weekends, I asked my friend and local music aficionado Dave Rickard for some advice on spots to see live music. Dave has been going to shows since I went to high school with him more than 30 years ago. He’d go see the Dead one night and Iron Maiden the next — he didn’t miss anything, and still doesn’t. Dave plays bass in local band Matone, so he knows the venues well. Here are his picks for best places to catch a show:
- Charlotte Metro Credit Union Amphitheater You can see incredible national artists in an intimate outdoor setting here (approx. 5,000 capacity). It has several concession stands throughout so you aren’t waiting in long lines.Parking is reasonable, and there are quite a few places in the N.C. Music Factory to grab a quick bite and a drink before a show. The only potential drawback is if inclement weather hits. If it does, tough.
- McGlohon Theater This place is hard to beat for intimacy and acoustics. It’s a very small theater in an old renovated Baptist Church. Because it’s so small (about 750 capacity), you don’t get the large acts coming through that other venues do, but the quality is top-notch and there isn’t a bad seat in the house.
- Smokey Joe’s Cafe With the Double Door now a thing of the past, Smokey’s gets my nod for best music venue with a “divey” atmosphere. It’s very cozy, and you’re virtually guaranteed to get a really good band (local and smaller national) on almost any day of the week with a very diverse crowd of regulars, hipsters, occasional patrons, etc. The memorabilia and atmosphere alone are worth a visit, and the staff is great.
- Neighborhood Theatre I love this place because they are willing to take a chance and bring in a lot of national “niche” artists when other venues won’t. As an old movie theater, its design lets you stand toward the back and see everything while still being really close to the band. You can stand down in the general admission area or move up upstairs and have an actual seat. Another bonus is being in the heart of NoDa, with a ton of cool spots to hang before a show.
- Visulite Theater The very cool “artsy” stage and red velvet drapes along the walls give this place an awesome feel and vibe. The area around the Visulite has grown a bit as well, so there are some good spots to walk to before a show for food and drink. The elevated area makes it really convenient to see and not feel too confined. For those that want the music “in your face,” there is a lower pit down front to get right up next to the band.
- Ovens Auditorium Ovens has been around forever and has hosted countless incredible shows. The multicolored lighted columns and ceiling lights before the show and at intermission make it feel like you’re back in the ’70s. Acoustics are great and with a capacity of 2,500, it’s intimate yet also houses a good number of people. With the changes that Independence Blvd has gone through over the years, I’m so glad Charlotte hasn’t destroyed Ovens and Bojangles’ Coliseum.
Honorable mentions include Jack Beagles NoDa (the outdoor stage is really great), Belk Theater at Blumenthal Performing Arts Center, U.S. National Whitewater Center, Bojangles’ Coliseum and Heist Brewery.
Ben Kinney is the publisher of SouthPark Magazine. Dave Rickard is a local musician and vice president of Carolina Made.