Governor Cooper Declares July 24 to 27, 2019, as "MRG30 Week"

July 25, 2019

“I, ROY COOPER, Governor of the State of North Carolina, do hereby proclaim July 24–27, 2019, as ‘MRG30 WEEK’ in North Carolina, and commend its observance to all citizens.”

MRG30 is underway, with a North Carolina packed evening at the Carolina Theatre in Durham last night, featuring H.C McEntire, Hiss Golden Messenger, and the Mountain Goats. The rest of the festival will take place at the Cat's Cradle in Carrboro and highlight Merge Records artists from near and far. Even if you didn't get tickets to the sold out shows, that's no reason not to celebrate 30 years of groundbreaking indie rock from the North Carolina label.

Check out Merge Records co-founder and Superchunk frontman Mac McCaughan discussing the first 25 years of Merge Records below, and be sure to keep an eye on Come Hear North Carolina for coverage of their 30th birthday celebration!

A Look at the Indie Rock Music Scene in Chapel Hill

July 22, 2019

A Look at the Indie Rock Music Scene in Chapel Hill

By David Menconi

Way back in the pre-digital days of 1992, newspapers published all their news on the actual paper you picked up from the driveway every morning. Press releases and pitches used to come to newspaper newsrooms on paper, too, sent in stamped envelopes rather than e-mail. I recall one from that spring when I had been music critic at the News & Observer (N&O) for about a year. It was a freelance submission sent by a writer all the way out in Vancouver, British Columbia, who was hoping the N&O would print his story. And even though this pitch came from nearly 3,000 miles away, the author was bursting to tell us that the music scene in Chapel Hill was about to be “the next big thing” to hit the mainstream.

At the time, this wasn’t entirely out of context. After years of the likes of Vanilla Ice, Wilson Phillips and Milli Vanilli dominating the mainstream, in 1992 the Seattle grunge band Nirvana was top of the charts and king of the world thanks to their hit single and video “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” With Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Alice in Chains and other alternative-leaning bands also moving up the charts in Nirvana’s wake, the record industry had suddenly awakened to the unexpected commercial viability of hard-edged, loud and sloppy yet melodic music formerly deemed too unkempt for the masses.

As it happened, the Triangle area (Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill) had a lot of bands that roughly fit the formula, including Superchunk, Polvo, Archers of Loaf, Zen Frisbee, Erectus Monotone and Picasso Trigger. Most of the bands in the scene were going the Do-It-Yourself route of releasing their music themselves and seemed content with holding the mainstream music industry at arm’s length. But with change in the air, record companies were starting to sniff around hoping to find the next big hitmaker.

That pitch from Vancouver was the first inkling I had that this wave of attention would involve not just record labels, but the media. The early-to-mid 1990s brought a remarkable wave of high-profile national-media coverage of “The Chapel Hill Scene” (“Chapel Hill” being shorthand for the larger Triangle region). This coverage had an almost archaeological tone:  correspondents would fly into RDU Airport, head over to Chapel Hill, hang around for a few days seeing bands and file stories sizing up the scene’s “Next Seattle” potential. Such pieces appeared in music magazines like Spin and Alternative Press as well as the New York Times, U.S. News & World Report, Time, Details, Entertainment Weekly and Billboard.

Possibly the most absurdly memorable such story appeared in Spin magazine’s December 1992 issue, headlined “Robbing the Cradle” (a reference to Cat’s Cradle, Chapel Hill’s big indie-rock nightclub). The concluding paragraph was telling:

At 3:30 am, Polvo singer-guitarist Ash Bowie takes me to a Chapel Hill party that’s just starting to rock. He looks troubled. ‘Do you really think there’s a Chapel Hill sound?’ he asks quietly. A groggy passerby offers his take: ‘You really want to know the Chapel Hill sound?’ He draws close. ‘It’s this,’ he says and opens a beer can in my face. Cheers.

Details magazine published a February 1993 story headlined “Chapel Hill-billies” that was long on quips and quirk (“Welcome to North Carolina, where the men are grad students and the women play bass”), equating Chapel Hill to “Seattle on Prozac…part metal, part Saturday-morning-cartoon cuteness.” Also, in 1993, Time magazine singled out Chapel Hill, Portland and the Canadian city of Halifax, Nova Scotia as the next potential alternative-rock boomtowns.

I am embarrassed to confess that I played a bit part in this myself. In the fall of 1995, I got a phone call from U.S. News & World Report asking for commentary. By then, the hot-jazz combo Squirrel Nut Zippers and piano-pop trio Ben Folds Five had begun their rise. Owing to the fact that members of both bands had gone from playing alternative rock to stylized old-timey music, I jokingly referred to both bands as “slumcore” (a word that still makes me cringe), and the writer picked that up and ran with it. Published in December 1995, “25 Predictions of the New Year” quoted me saying that word and spoke of the Zippers and Folds’ “stylized retro version of punk…that’s enriched and a bit gentrified for popular tastes. It’s the sound that the rest of the nation will soon know simply as Chapel Hill.”

The funny part is that prediction turned out to be right. In a truly unlikely turn of events, both bands had their second albums blow up and sell more than a million copies in 1997, thanks to two unlikely hit singles: the Zippers’ calypso ode to damnation “Hell,” and Folds’ autobiographical tale of a teenage abortion “Brick.”

You just never know who will get that close-up, or when.


About the Author

2019 Piedmont Laureate David Menconi covered music for the (Raleigh) News & Observer for 28 years. His book "Step It Up and Go: The Story of North Carolina Popular Music, from Blind Boy Fuller and Doc Watson to Nina Simone and Superchunk" will be published this fall by the University of North Carolina Press.

Listen Local: The Pinhook

June 21, 2019

Affirming. Open. Proudly queer. A safe space. These are a few of the words often deployed to describe The Pinhook, a venue located at 117 W. Main Street, Durham, N.C.

Founded in 2008 by Kym Register, the creative voice behind the country music group Loamlands, The Pinhook is an anchor of Durham’s thriving music scene. It’s a local haunt of many of the indie musicians who have recently put The Bull City on the music map – Sylvan Esso and Phil Cook – and it’s a celebrated haven and presenter for the LGBTQ community in the Triangle.

J. Clapp, who performs as the popular drag diva Vivica C. Coxx, says the best thing about The Pinhook’s programming is that you never know what you’re going to get but “It’s always open and affirming of people with marginalized backgrounds, and it’s always giving of its time and energy in ways that most clubs and venues aren’t. It’s very Durham, and it’s very who I want to be.” 

The ethos of the club – to pay artists a living wage, and to create a safe space for marginalized communities – permeates the programming and the community that has come to know and love The Pinhook. In celebration of Pride Month, we step inside The Pinhook for June’s Listen Local, our  video series profiling unique venues and places where music is made, performed and celebrated in North Carolina. 

"Bull Durham: Blues City Legacy" by David Menconi

June 12, 2019

Bull Durham: Blues City Legacy

By: David Menconi

Durham isn’t the city the blues forgot so much as a city that forgot its own blues history. For far too many years, Durham’s blues legacy was less than an afterthought – and it’s a legacy as rich as any city beyond Memphis or Chicago.

In the 1930s and early ’40s, Durham was home to a veritable Mount Rushmore of acoustic performers playing Piedmont blues, a clattery style with similarities to ragtime and bluegrass. There was South Carolina native Gary Davis, generally known by the prefixes “Blind” or “Rev.,” a virtuoso guitarist who would influence countless younger players during the 1950s and ’60s folk and blues revivals; Sonny & Brownie, the duo of Georgia-born harmonica master Saunders “Sonny Terry” Terrell and guitarist Walter Brown “Brownie” McGhee, who made sweet music for decades on the folk-festival circuit; and the man at the center of it all, Fulton Allen, more widely known as Blind Boy Fuller.

There were plenty of other blues players in the area – Floyd Council (later the partial namesake of British psychedelic-rock band Pink Floyd) and Elizabeth “Freight Train” Cotten in Chapel Hill, Rocky Mount harmonica player “Peg Leg Sam” Jackson – but those four were the dominant figures. And what brought them all to Durham was the middle-class economy created by tobacco. Durham was one of America’s foremost tobacco towns; even its “Bull City” nickname came from W.T. Blackwell & Co.’s Bull Durham Tobacco. 

Working in tobacco factories paid multiples more money than sharecropping, and Durham had a sizable black working class with a relatively stable economy. Tobacco even helped Durham weather the economic traumas of the Great Depression far better than wide swaths of the country, because demand stayed strong.

“Cigarettes are addictive and in hard times it’s still hard to give up the stuff you’re addicted to,” said blues musician/scholar Scott Ainslie, a Vermont native who spent 20 years in North Carolina. “They’re the last things to go, even after food. So, in Durham, there were still rent parties and moonshining.”

Even in the worst of times during the 1930s, enough working-class people had disposable income to go toward entertainment so that a music scene began to coalesce. But rather than concert halls or nightclubs, the main venues were cafes, barbershops, house parties, street corners and most of all tobacco warehouses. The scene was especially busy during fall harvest time when farmers would sell their tobacco at auction and go shopping with their pockets newly full of cash. Moonshiners and busking blues players converged wherever crowds would gather.

It’s no coincidence that three out of Durham’s Big Four blues players were blind (Fuller, Davis, and Terry) while the fourth (McGhee) grew up crippled with polio until he could have corrective surgery as an adult. Music represented a way out of poverty, especially for Fuller – who had a thriving recording career, thanks in part to the white merchant J.B. Long, who recorded and released more than 100 of his songs during the 1930s and early ’40s. Fuller’s most enduring recording was 1940’s “Step It Up and Go,” which is sort of like the “Johnny B. Goode” of Piedmont blues, the chestnut everybody knows.

"Here's a blind man who couldn't get work because there was precious little work for African American men in the Jim Crow South, let alone disabled ones," the University of North Carolina folklorist Glenn Hinson said of Blind Boy Fuller. "And he transcends his circumstances to find a national audience with his music. That's a story worth hearing, and it's so much the dream of today's hip-hop artists, too. They look out there and say, 'All these people who are stars now, where'd they start out? In the projects like us.' From social conditions that say, 'no future,' they made one."

Fuller’s death in 1941 marked the end point of Durham’s golden age of blues. Davis, Terry, and McGhee all left for points north within a few years, and most of the other players in the scene were dying off as “urban renewal” began to take a toll on Durham’s blues and African-American history. Much of the Hayti district was leveled in the 1960s to make way for the Durham Freeway.

Still, a few tangible reminders remain. The house Blind Boy Fuller lived in at the end of his life still stands at 904 E. Massey Avenue in Durham and there are historical markers near Fuller’s grave at Grove Hill Cemetery and at the corner of Fayetteville and Simmons streets, where he and Davis used to busk by a barbecue stand. And a piece of the old Liberty Warehouse wall still stands on Rigsbee Avenue, as a decorative façade for a luxury apartment complex “where Durham’s soulful history and cultural future converge.”



About the Author

2019 Piedmont Laureate David Menconi covered music for the (Raleigh) News & Observer for 28 years. His book "Step It Up and Go: The Story of North Carolina Popular Music, from Blind Boy Fuller and Doc Watson to Nina Simone and Superchunk" will be published this fall by the University of North Carolina Press.

Gospel Concert Opens Eyes to Kinston’s Music Legacy

June 9, 2019

Gospel Concert Opens Eyes to Kinston’s Music Legacy

By Vergil Demery

Photos by Sierra Turner

Over Memorial Day weekend, I went to my first concert since joining the North Carolina Arts Council as an intern for Come Hear NC. Far from the bright lights of New York’s Summer Jam, or the hype of Coachella, Lenoir County’s 4th Annual African American Heritage Festival was going down in the small town of Kinston, 30 miles southwest of Greenville.

Kinston's not a big town, and at this point is probably more well known for basketball than music, producing NBA players at a rate (per capita) 63 times higher than the national average. Or as the miracle town that was fortunate to avoid being blown to smithereens when a B-52 crashed in a tobacco field carrying a bomb with 250 times the power of the nuke dropped in Hiroshima. Or as the home base for the popular PBS Television show A Chef’s Life. Or maybe you’ve never heard of Kinston. Maybe like me, you were completely unaware of its rich musical history. Maybe like me, you doubted that giants existed in small fields.

On the way to Kinston, our team made a pitstop in Wilson. We toured the Vollis Simpson Whirligig Park for a bit. While visual art has never been my cup of tea, I couldn’t help but be in awe of the fact that a man well into retirement had spent his old age climbing 50-foot poles to build and maintain massive sculptures. However, I wasn’t just here to admire Vollis. I kept my eyes open for venues that could be included on the African American Music Trails of Eastern North Carolina, which I’m researching this summer. When we decided to break for lunch, a local pointed us to a sandwich shop, Tig’s Courtyard, that he said we would probably like because they sold “yuppie sandwiches.” I didn’t think much of it. This, however, was probably the biggest problem with my perspective going into the trip. I was a yuppie who assumed that nothing major would come out of such a small town and that the gospel performance we were headed to see wasn’t going to be my thing. Even though I had never been to a formal gospel show, I thought the times I listened at my local church in Raleigh, as well as my grandparents’ churches in D.C and Atlanta were enough. If gospel singers in such major cities couldn’t move me, what chance did someone in a town as small as Kinston have? I went in not expecting much but quickly found out why a blip on the map like Kinston is considered the birthplace of funk music and one of the major stops along the African American Music Trails of Eastern North Carolina.

When I first walked into a sparsely populated Arts Council building in the middle of downtown Kinston my hopes didn’t shoot through the roof. As I looked around I noticed that the main performer had a promotion for his ministry, and I saw mostly older residents with a few young faces sprinkled in. I figured this was going to end up like a church event. As everything started to settle down and the residents found their seats, a small framed man no older than me named Malik Turner walked out and began singing the national anthem. He started out a bit shaky, but he closed the anthem with a Whitney Houston like bellow and then proceeded to give a speech before the full performance. He said that “music can move people in ways that a speech or written words can’t.” My interest was piqued.

This speech might not have resonated with me so much if Turner hadn’t been able to back up his talk, but after giving his short speech, he launched into one of the strongest vocal performances I’ve heard in recent memory. The music moved me in a way I hadn’t been moved before. I felt every word and hung on every verse. I had come to Kinston expecting to write a story on the hometown of Maceo Parker and four other members of the original James Brown Band, but I immediately knew that I had to find out who these people were. Malik Turner’s performance was so good that it floored me. 

It would be criminal of me not to mention the acts that came after Malik Turner. Natasha Matthews, who was born in Greenville but has since found herself singing at St. John Free Will Baptist Church in Kinston, had the voice of an angel. And Mal Williams put on a show that you would expect from an Eastern North Carolina gospel legend. Every single performance was nothing short of amazing, and it made me start to question my yuppie ways. 

Williams is from Snow Hill, a place that is the definition of small-town America. Snow Hill doesn’t quite have a population of 2,000, yet again, he was one of the best live performers I had seen in a long time.

Williams arrived in a very unassuming manner, he walked in wearing a plain blue suit but before his performance ran to the phone both, put on his cape, and transformed into the internationally renowned performer that he is. After that, his crew started to set up their own instruments before seemingly disappearing to allow the other acts to stand on their own. I found myself thinking, “Malik had just happened to be from Kinston and was young enough that no one had discovered him yet. Yeah, Natasha Matthews is great but she’s a minister so obviously, the Lord and her church work come first — she’s just singing where she preaches.” When Mal Williams stated that his band was comprised of his family members I thought I finally had my gotcha moment. “See I knew the first two were flukes this is more on the lines of what I was expecting.” I foolishly thought, I was clearly wrong

Mal chooses his family members as bandmates not just because of their strong ties but also because they are the best players he could find. His cousin Darius Shackleford is a man that is a legend in his own right, who was considered good enough to be featured on an album with the likes of Maceo Parker and George Higgs. Even their drummer Clyde Felton Jr. is a published solo artist with multiple albums and singles available on the Apple Store. Mal’s wife was a force to be reckoned with in her own right. She was able to steal the show to a degree that I hadn’t thought possible after the strong performances from the rest of the group. The whole family performed so well that they were reminiscent of the early days of the Jackson 5. 

In this tiny town hall, I witnessed two North Carolina musicians perform at the highest level. Williams is a man that has performed on five different continents and gone in front of stadiums of 40,000 people. A man that has an upcoming tour in Israel, and yet here he was in a room of no more than a couple hundred people, in a town that might not have existed if a wrong wire was cut. I was so close that I could see the sweat dripping down his face and had to move my legs when he came my way, so he didn’t trip. It was an experience that many people dream of having, and yet I still saw empty chairs. Foodies have discovered Kinston, I hope that music yuppies will too.

This concert was sponsored by the African American Heritage Commission of Lenoir County.













Vergil Demery, a senior at North Carolina Central University, is studying English. He has been in the Triangle area since the age of three. Vergil, who loves to write, is crafting stories for the Come Hear North Carolina campaign, and he plans to go into journalism after graduating.












Sierra Turner graduated from North Carolina Central University recently, where she earned a B.A. in Mass Communication with a concentration in Broadcast Media. She is also working in the Folklife Program — focusing on diversifying her work as a multimedia storyteller.

On the Record: Cream Puff Records

June 5, 2019

Welcome back to On The Record

A series about North Carolina Record Stores


In a world that grows more digital by the second, record stores remain vital community hubs for people interested in connecting in-person with fellow music-lovers. In college towns, cities large and small and creative downtowns across North Carolina, record stores offer space to talk music with fellow aficionados, engage physically with the media, and spend time “treasure hunting” for that forgotten gem in the used bin. We’ve invited record stores across the state to share their stories throughout the Come Hear North Carolina campaign. For the next installment in the series, we welcome Jay Kenney from Cream Puff Records in Charlotte.

What is the name of your store and where are you based? 

Cream Puff Records. 421 Providence Road, Charlotte, N.C.

How long have you been in operation?

Since 2014

Tell us a bit about your store. What is its mission and why is the community you serve a good place for your business?

The mission of Cream Puff Records is to promote the stellar musical heritage of North Carolina, but we’re pretty enamored with independent and experimental music from just about anywhere. We carry new and used vinyl, stocking as many records by North Carolina artists (Nina Simone, John Coltrane, Willie Lowery, Lee Fields) as we can. 

Charlotte is an amazing place to run a small music business, and our customers are steadfast in their support of us. From the casual music fans to the serious snobs (we mean that as a compliment), all of our customers are interested in new sounds and understand the important role local artists and businesses play in a creative community. Cream Puff Records shares space with a clothing store, an art gallery, a bookstore and a coffee shop, so a lot of our customers find themselves under our roof for reasons other than buying music. They come in for a cup of coffee or a new pair of shoes, but they often leave with a handful of records too. 



Tell us about your customers. Who is buying records? How has that changed over time? What do you think is driving the vinyl resurgence?

We also promote live music around town, so a lot of the folks buying records from us are live music fans who attend our shows. We do our best to nurture ties with the local music and the arts community, so I think people want to support a business that’s committed to being a part of Charlotte’s creative energy.

People are psyched (at least we think they’re psyched) that a place like Cream Puff Records exists, so they’ve been willing to support us – and by extension, the artists and labels we curate – by buying records. Furthermore, they like to invest in artists they like – and streaming just isn’t getting done. A record isn’t just something to listen to. It’s a story to tell, an artifact that captures an artist’s statement at a moment in time.

How people consume, and access music has changed dramatically in the last decade. What do record stores offer in this ever-growing digital/streaming music landscape?

More than anything else, record stores provide the thrill of the hunt. Streaming services are good at helping listeners discover new stuff. But they commoditize music. If you can listen to everything, does anything have value? In a record store, you don’t know what they have when you walk in. You can’t type in a band name and listen to it. Instead, you dig through the bins to see what’s there. You didn’t know what would be there when you walked in – you just had a sense there would be something of interest to you. Of all that record stores offer – a sense of community, a music education, lots of snarky jokes – we think the thrill of the hunt is the most important.

Thank you so much for participating in our giveaway, please tell us which record you are sharing and why you picked it.

Half Tight by The Loose Lugnuts. We picked this record because it represents the side of Charlotte we wish people would think of instead of big banks. Brothers Brian and Mark Wilson lead this Piedmont honky tonk band with a dynamite record collection. They also own The Thirsty Beaver (The Half Tight album cover depicts a scene from there). It’s Charlotte’s best bar and the scourge of apartment developers everywhere. 

Where can people find you online?

Website: www.CreamPuffRecords.com

Instagram: @CreamPuffRecords

Twitter: @CreamPRecords

Facebook: Cream Puff Records

Essential North Carolina albums according to Cream Puff Records

Benji Hughes - A Love Extreme

Lee Fields & the Expressions - Faithful Man

Kelsey Lu - Church 

Hiss Golden Messenger - Poor Moon

Mary Lattimore and Mac McCaughan - New Rain Duets

Patois Counselors - Proper Release

At 97, Margaret Vardell Sandresky Plays On!

June 4, 2019

Winston-Salem native Margaret Vardell Sandresky, now 97, continues to play and compose music, following in the footsteps of her grandmother Linda Rumple Vardell, who founded the Conservatory of Music at Flora MacDonald College in Robeson County.

From the Coast to the Mountains, North Carolina Music Festivals are in Full Swing in June!

June 3, 2019

Festival season is in full swing in North Carolina, which means there is no shortage of great musical experiences across our state. The coming weeks include concerts, workshops, and festivals from the coast to the mountains. Be sure to keep an eye on our Music Festivals page throughout the year for information on all the great music North Carolina has to offer!

Blue Ridge Music Trails

Year-Round Programming, Western North Carolina

The Blue Ridge Music Trail region covers 29 counties in Western North Carolina and highlights traditional North Carolina mountain music and dance. A project of the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area and the N.C. Arts Council there are music events featured throughout the year, but the majority of outdoor music festivals happen from the spring through mid-fall.

The Blue Ridge Music Trail website gives you all the tools you'll need to plan a music getaway. Be sure to check their upcoming events page to find your next musical experience!

11th Port City Music Festival

June 2-9, Wilmington, N.C.

Founded in 2009 by cellist and conductor Stephen Framil and Wilmington artist Christine Farley, the 11th Annual Port City Music Festival 2019 is a summer concert series committed to the highest quality of performance, and making the experience of great music accessible to all.

The Port City Music Festival is a program of CAMERATA PHILADELPHIA, an ensemble without musical boundaries. From symphonies to concertos to chamber music to lieder to choral to opera, CAMERATA not only brings a fresh and distinct interpretation to the venerated classics, but also seeks to bridge the styles of classical, jazz, folk and world music – each program an eclectic and richly diverse musical offering. Committed to music appreciation for all ages, it is the mission of CAMERATA to make the experience of great music accessible to all.

Brevard Summer Institute and Festival

June 6 - August 16, Brevard, N.C.

Led by Artistic Director Keith Lockhart, the 2019 BMC summer music festival provides audiences with an exceptional array of performances by gifted young musicians and some of the most celebrated names in music — from classical superstars to pops, classical guitar and jazz legends, to acclaimed R&B and bluegrass artists — at our lakeside home in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina.

This concert series kicks off June 6 and runs through August. View the official calendar here.

NC HipHop Festival

June 21-23, Durham, N.C.

From June 21-23, Durham will open its doors and welcome 3,500 hip-hop lovers to North Carolina’s Luxury Hiphop Experience, the North Carolina HipHop Festival. They will enjoy over 100 exhibitors at venues across the city for a weekend celebrating the thriving genre. This festival is the only large-scale event in the entire Southeastern U.S. that is specifically designated to hip-hop. Keep an eye on NCHipHopFestival.com for line-up updates, ticket information, and schedule.

Cape Fear Blues Festival

June 21-23, Wilmington, N.C.

The Cape Fear Blues Festival, an up and coming festival throughout the national blues industry, is where blues fans can satisfy their soulful cravings. Scott Ellison Band, The Rhythm Bones, Catesby Jones, Fat Bastard Blues Band, and more will be playing at Wilmington's premier blues music venues: the Rusty Nail Saloon, Finkelstein's Music and various other venues in Historic Downtown. This three-day all-blues celebration features live concerts, a blues workshop, an all-day blues jam, and more!

99th State Annual Singing Convention

June 21-23, Benson, N.C.

The State Annual Singing Convention, which brings thousands of people to Benson each year, began modestly in a tobacco warehouse in 1921. About 200 people listened to two choirs that day. Since that time, the State Annual Singing Convention has grown and become one of the largest and oldest gospel sings in the United States.

Some seating is provided; however, spectators are encouraged to bring lawn chairs. There is no charge to attend the Sing or for contestants to enter the Sing, which begins at 10 a.m. Saturday and Sunday with round robin singing.

The singing is held outdoors in downtown Benson in a beautiful one-block oak grove located at 400 E Main St, Benson, N.C. 27504.  

Eastern Music Festival

June 22 - July 27, Greensboro, N.C.

The program brings together a cross-section of the world's most sought-after artists with pre-professional students in a five-week schedule of more than 65 concerts and music-related events. 

Music Director Gerard Schwarz heads a distinguished list of participating artists. Current and past artists and/or students include Yo-Yo Ma, Sarah Chang, Wynton Marsalis, Midori, Susan Graham, Andre Watts, Joshua Bell, Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg, and many more.

Singing on the Mountain

June 23, Grandfather Mountain, N.C.

The 95th Annual Singing on the Mountain will be held on Sunday, June 23 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. in MacRae Meadows at Grandfather Mountain. In a spirit of faith and community, all are welcome to enjoy picnics and musical performances together. Admission to the Singing on the Mountain is free.

This event, now in its 95th year, will be a special one as its founder, Joseph Larkin Hartley, lived 95 years; the Hartley family is proud to have kept the festival alive for at least the duration of his life.

An Appalachian Summer Festival

June 29 - August 3, Boone, N.C.

Presented by Appalachian State University’s Office of Arts & Cultural Programs, this annual celebration of the performing and visual arts is held every July in venues across the university campus, and features an eclectic, diverse mix of music, dance, theatre, visual arts and film programming. An Appalachian Summer Festival began in 1984 as a chamber music series, and retains strong roots in classical music, combined with a variety of other programming geared to almost every artistic taste and preference. Celebrating its 35th season in 2019, the festival has risen in stature to become one of the nation’s most highly respected summer festivals, acclaimed for the breadth and quality of its artistic programming.

Opening night is June 29th with Winston Salem native Ben Folds! Tickets and schedule for the summer can be found at www.AppSummer.org

Stecoah Appalachian Evenings

June 29 - August 31, Stecoah, N.C.

Our annual summer concert series offers an ever-changing schedule of bluegrass, folk and old-time mountain music by award-winning artists — quality entertainment for the entire family. Rich in cultural heritage, the series continues to be a favorite with locals and visitors alike. All concerts at 7:30 pm in the air-conditioned Lynn L. Shields Auditorium.

Don Gibson Theatre Presents a Special Come Hear NC Program on June 8

June 1, 2019

As you know, Governor Roy Cooper named 2019 The Year of Music in North Carolina. In his official proclamation, Governor Cooper mentioned a number of great musicians from North Carolina including songwriter Don Gibson. A forefather of country music, Don Gibson grew up in Shelby, North Carolina, a town that has passionately embraced Come Hear North Carolina, The Year of Music campaign. On Saturday, June 8 the historic Don Gibson Theatre in Shelby will present an evening of music highlighting some of the many talented artists from around the area. Join them as they celebrate Americana, Rock, Country, Blues, Folk and Bluegrass music stars from their own community including: The Oak Grove String Band, Scott Moss & The $100 Handshakes, Pistol Hill, The McMurry Trio, Eric Congdon, and Darin & Brooke Aldridge. Details here.

On the Record: Nit Nats Music

May 8, 2019
Welcome back to On The Record
A series about North Carolina Record Stores

In a world that grows more digital by the second, record stores remain vital community hubs for people interested in connecting in-person with fellow music-lovers. In college towns, cities large and small and creative downtowns across North Carolina, record stores offer space to talk music with fellow aficionados, engage physically with the media, and spend time “treasure hunting” for that forgotten gem in the used bin. We’ve invited record stores across the state to share their stories throughout the Come Hear North Carolina campaign. For the next installment in the series, we welcome William Harris, the owner of Nit Nats Music in Henderson, North Carolina.


What is the name of your store and where are you based? 

Nits Nats Music. 1680 Parham St., Henderson, N.C.

How long have you been in operation?

50 Years

Tell us a bit about your store. What is its mission and why is the community you serve a good place for your business?

Chery Hawkins, the original owner, opened the store in Oxford in 1969. By 1970, Nits Nats had a Henderson location as well. The Henderson store was more successful and the business stayed in Henderson while Cheryl and her husband, Phillip, owned it. I had been a customer since 1977 and when they decided to retire in 2015 they suggested I buy the store. I did and after a few months we moved the store to Louisburg. We stayed there for nine months and then returned to Henderson where we've been since. We try to provide a little of everything to our customers in terms of music. You'll find everything from the Sensational Nightingales to Frank Zappa. We sell new and used CDs, vinyl, dvds, books and more. Henderson and the four county area of Vance, Franklin, Warren and Granville don't have any other record stores in the area so we fill a need. Additionally, I feel Nits Nats Music gives the City of Henderson a bit of character. Small towns need small local businesses to remain vital. Nits Nats Music is, I hope, part of that vitality.


Tell us about your customers. Who is buying records? How has that changed over time? What do you think is driving the vinyl resurgence?

It used to be that the hard core crate diggers were buying vinyl. The original owners had gotten away from buying vinyl. Once I took over, I had fond memories of John Swain and the legendary Record Hole in Raleigh. I loved digging for records there and I decided to bring used vinyl back to Nits Nats. Slowly, over the last several years, more and more people came looking for vinyl. While I still have the hard core crate diggers that must know every copy of every record I have, I now see a lot of teenagers who are exploring vinyl for the first time. Sometimes they come in with mom and dad and sometimes on their own or with friends. I still have an older clientele that are looking for classic R&B, gospel and southern soul. They, usually but not always, opt for CDs while the younger customers who look for Led Zeppelin or The Beatles tend to be looking for vinyl. I think what's driving the return to vinyl is that the younger generation is looking for an authentic musical experience that cannot be obtained with a download or listening to a playlist on your phone. I won't say vinyl is better than CD but it's just different. Either format is certainly far superior than what you are going to hear off of your phone from a streaming service.

How people consume, and access music has changed dramatically in the last decade. What do record stores offer in this ever-growing digital/streaming music landscape?

Not only does purchasing physical copies support small business and the artists and producers, a record store presents the authentic shopping experience. Most, if not all, are staffed by people who love music. You aren't going to become rich working at or owning a record store so most do it because they love it. Reading a review on Amazon isn't the same from getting a human response from the person behind the counter. Record stores are a place to meet those with similar interests. It's more than just buying the latest Twenty One Pilots album. It's also about interaction and atmosphere.

Thank you so much for participating in our giveaway, please tell us which record you are sharing and why you picked it.

Beggars' Caravan - Take Me With You was released several years ago. Recorded by Ian Schreier at Osceola in Raleigh and mastered by Brent Lambert at the Kitchen in Carrboro, Beggar's Caravan mix solid songwriting with instrumentation that is just as solid. It's a rather straight forward rock album with a touch of pop that deserved more attention upon its release.

Where can people find you online?

Nits Nats-Music is our Facebook handle. I am afraid we aren't much in the way tweeting or using Instagram.


Essential North Carolina albums according to Nit Nats Music

Mandolin Orange - Tides of a Teardrop

John Coltrane - A Love Supreme

Nantucket - Nantucket


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