Westernmost North Carolina is celebrated for its rich tradition of Appalachian music and is a renowned destination for music enthusiasts. Old Time mountain music is a melting pot of religious hymns, Scottish ballads – including the origins of bluegrass – and African blues. It’s down home, toe-tapping tunes meets Appalachian heritage.
However, there’s more to discover than just the rhythm of banjos and fiddles. You’ll find the live music opportunities across the Smokies span multiple genres including jazz, rock, jam, and R&B. Here are some of the best venues to visit for live music experiences.
Explore the Roots of Appalachian and Americana Music
Any Appalachian music aficionado’s first stop must be at the John C. Campbell Folk School in Brasstown, NC. Here you can attend week-long and weekend classes learning to play a traditional instrument and exploring the music’s history. Intrepid visitors can even be introduced to traditional contradance (line dancing) and square dancing! Be sure to stick around for the Friday night concerts.
You should also consider a visit to the Stecoah Valley Cultural Center, near Fontana and Robbinsville, NC. It was originally an old stone schoolhouse and is now a study of the Appalachian arts. The center is a focal point for protecting mountain music. The preservation efforts include opportunities for young people to learn mountain instruments. The center also invites the community and visitors to enjoy the mountain music concert series, An Appalachian Evening.
Catch A Show At A Performing Arts Center
Discover “big city entertainment in a quiet mountain town.” Located right on the town square in Hayesville, the Peacock Performing Arts Center offers a wide variety of entertaining shows.
The Smoky Mountain Center for the Performing Arts is also a premiere venue for superlative artists and performances. With stunning architecture and impeccable acoustics, this site offers a variety of shows, including gospel, folk and dance to name a few.
We can’t talk about music in the mountains without mentioning Harrah’s Cherokee Casino, featuring music of all genres, including southern rock and bluegrass.
Smoky Mountain Music Festivals
Music festivals abound in these mountains, and you are pretty much guaranteed to find a music festival featuring your favorite music. Festivals of note include Thunder in the Smokies in Maggie Valley, the Highlands Cashiers Chamber Music Festival, and Concerts on the Creek in Sylva, NC.
But people travel from all over the world for Folkmoot USA in Waynesville. Folkmoot USA focuses on celebrating cultural diversity and encouraging cultural inclusion. It also honors cultural heritages through music and dance as a tool to achieve world peace. It is not to be missed!
Local Music Hangouts
There is also a solid argument to be made for experiencing mountain music played by locals, up close and live. Some of our favorite music scenes are Unplugged Pub, Darnell Farms, and Nantahala Brewing in Bryson City. We also love the live music at Chevelles66 in Murphy, Lazy Hiker Brewing in Franklin, and Moonshiners Steakhouse in Robbinsville for the up-close-and-personal experience of live mountain music.
For a one-of-a-kind mountain music extravaganza, few experiences can compare to the Stompin’ Grounds Dance Hall in Maggie Valley, NC. The lobby tells an excellent story of mountain music and dance. But the huge, 60 x 80 ft dance floor is where the excitement happens. Dancers perform the two-step, square dancing, clogging, and line dancing. The outstanding band plays old-time fiddle and bluegrass tunes, along with some contemporary country hits.
The best part is that you are invited to the dance floor to experience the dancing and music for yourself – even if you’ve never stepped out on a dance floor in your life. Let yourself go and embrace the rich music of these spectacular mountains for a once-in-a-lifetime experience!