Our Five Faves

Best music venues

Posted December 26, 2011

Any place can set up some lights, a PA, create a staging area and call themselves a concert venue these days. But there are few venues in the Triangle area that have that special something that gets people excited about seeing a show.

As someone who has covered music and seen a million shows (well, something like that, but who is counting) I have paid my dues of hearing loss and countless hours of suffering through some brutal opening acts to be called a certified concertgoer. Here are my top five music venues in the area: 

Des Ark at Kings Barcade

Kings Barcade (Raleigh) - This place is what every music club should be. A quality club sound system, great decor, solid music, and there always seems to be something going on. Over the past year, Kings continues to fill up its calendar with the best local, upcoming indie and national touring acts around. It is quickly becoming the best music hangout in the downtown area by far. I think my three favorite things about the venue are the $2 cans of tasty PBR, the life-sizde Statler and Waldorf figures from "The Muppets" presiding over stage left, and on most nights the crowds are not afraid to work up a little rock-n-roll sweat.

Cat's Cradle
Cat's Cradle (Carrboro) - Ask anyone who has lived in the area awhile I am sure they could spout out at least one great story about a show they saw at Cat's Cradle. If you are new to the area then I would recommend adding this to your bucket list. Since 1971, Cat's has been pulling in major acts and some real unknowns who have gone onto stardom. Nirvana played at Cat's before they hit it big. Because of the venue's proximity to a pulsating college town and outstanding reputation, many bands will specifically plot their touring schedule to hit the town and Mama Dips for some southern hospitality. 

Koka Booth
Koka Booth Amphitheater (Cary)- One word: beautiful. This outdoor amphitheater is surrounded by tall, majestic pine trees that give the feeling you are in an enchanted forest. In typical outdoor venue fashion, there are seats down in front and general admission on the lawn for those of us that want to enjoy the music and not the crowds. They even have a crescent deck that sits in the back of the venue that is mainly reserved for VIP patrons. Being a seasonal venue, the window of opportunity is really limited to seeing all the great acts that roll through the summer and early fall. 

steve 09
Durham Performing Arts Center - Durham Performing Artist Center (Durham) - There is nothing like listening to a great sounding band like Derek Trucks or YES in a theatre that is specific designed to create perfect acoustics from wall to wall. The DPAC is the largest and most modern Performing Arts Center between Atlanta and Philadelphia and holds more than 2,700 seats. Inside and out the architecture is warm and inviting. Get there early and grab a pre-show beverage with friends to enjoy the view from the three-story glass walled lobby overseeing the district. 

Local 506 (Chapel Hill)  - Every good music scene needs a quality dive bar that will provide good tunes, cheap drinks and plenty of local favor. Local 506 fits that bill. This place is for serious music heads to congregate and hang out. Many up and coming acts have also cut their teeth performing at Local 506. Tickets are economically friendly too - $8 - $12 for national acts, and $5 or less for local talents. It is a steal of a deal if you like going out on the weekends to discover new music! 

Honorable mentions: Raleigh Amphitheater and Time Warner Cable Music Pavilion at Walnut Creek.

Did we leave one of your favorite venues off the list? Got a favorite memory from the venues we mentioned? We want to hear from you in the comments section below. 


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  • Jakethesnake Dec 29, 2011

    Koka Booth is beautiful but you have to sit within 20 feet of the stage to hear the band. Big negative in my book. If I pay for a concert I don't wanna be able to hear the annoying drunk high school girl yapping away next to me.

  • lrjharrison Dec 29, 2011

    What about THE ICE HOUSE in Selma, with it's classic country music shows. There is a show every Friday night. Great family oriented entertainment!

  • davidgnews Dec 29, 2011

    I miss the Switch.

  • sarahsoandso Dec 29, 2011

    The Station in Carrboro. I've played it AND attended shows there. Built in crowd, great staff and knowledgable soundman.

  • Dr. Smooth Dec 27, 2011

    Wow -- no love for the Lincoln Theatre? I love the Cradle, too, but the sound at the Lincoln is fantastic.

  • Shelley Cooper Dec 27, 2011