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Home > Magazine > Article Archive > News

On the Scene: City Scenes: Raleigh-Durham
Posted on Sunday, April 08, 2007 @ 03:47:41 UTC
Topic: Local
City Scenes ~ Raleigh-Durham
When musicians begin booking their tour schedules, chances are that they'll want to get caught in The Triangle - much like the one located in Bermuda, indie bands can get lost in a sea of great music venues and performance spaces. "The Triangle" is an affectionate way to describe the area that contains Raleigh-Durham, Cary, Carrboro and Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Boasting a baker's dozen of universities, colleges and community colleges, this relatively small area packs quite a cultural, and musical, punch. Long considered to be one of the hippest areas in the country, there is no shortage of musical talent and adoring, loyal fans. Visiting bands and artists, in fact, may find it so enchanting that they'll take up permanent residency, or at the very least, spend a whirlwind month or two hitting the wide array of available venues. The close proximity of towns and cities makes this area a warm, welcoming and wildly vital place to build a following, and is just one of the many reasons this charming area of the country remains a musical hotspot.

Compiled By Heidi Drockelman


Raleigh's Skyline

Web resources for those who like to plan:


Just the facts… did you know?

  • Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill make up the three cities of The Triangle, so named in 1959 with the creation of the Research Triangle Park, a research park between Durham and Raleigh (mostly located within Durham County).
  • The Triangle is a regional population (approx. 1.5 million), equivalent to the U.S. Census Bureau's Combined Statistical Area of Raleigh-Durham-Cary.
  • Raleigh is the state capital of North Carolina.
  • Durham's most famous professional sports team is the Durham Bulls International League baseball team. A movie involving the franchise, Bull Durham, was produced in 1988. The Bulls play in the Durham Bulls Athletic Park, south of downtown, constructed in 1994.
  • Durham has a rich and vibrant art and cultural community. Events include jazz festivals, blues festivals, symphony concerts, art exhibitions, and a multitude of cultural expositions, including the American Dance Festival and the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival.
  • Chapel Hill is located snugly between the town of Carrboro to the west and the city of Durham to the east.
  • Chapel Hill was the home of now defunct indie label, Mammoth Records, and is also the founding home of another top indie label, Yep Roc Records, which is owned by Redeye Distribution.
  • Tift Merritt, Rufus Harley, Clay Aiken, Little Brother, Branford Marsalis, Squirrel Nut Zippers, Superchunk, Ben Folds Five, Archers of Loaf, James Taylor, Elizabeth Cotten, Floyd Council (the "Floyd" in Pink Floyd), and Southern Culture on the Skids have all called Raleigh, Durham or Chapel Hill home at some point in their lives. Indie-Music's Review Editor Jennifer Layton also calls Cary home.


The Pour House, 224 S. Blount St., Raleigh


This place rules! Best place to watch/play a gig:

The Pour House Music Hall (224 S. Blount St., Raleigh, http://www.the-pour-house.com/) - Serving downtown Raleigh for nearly a decade, The Pour House Music Hall has established itself as the most relaxed place to hang out, have a few drinks, and see great live music. The Pour House Music Hall is basically a destination oriented music venue that relies mostly on local, regional, and national touring acts with substantial marquee value in the market. It is a smaller, more intimate venue that holds just about 350 patrons.

Slim's Downtown Distillery (227 S. Wilmington St., Raleigh, http://www.myspace.com/slimsdowntownraleigh) - Alt-country fans remember when the name above the door at this address was Lakeside Lounge, once touted as one of the country's top venues to catch the best of the genre, including Whiskeytown, which was fronted by a little-known guy by the name of Ryan Adams. When its doors closed, the music may have stopped, but owner Van Alston didn't. Enter Slim's Downtown Distillery (or just Slim's, as it's known around town). Alston opened this downtown nightspot to ensure that Raleigh still has a place with a creative and gritty vibe, packed with local musicians who have their fingers on the pulse of some of today's most innovative roots music.

Raleigh Music Hall (14 W. Martin St., Raleigh, http://www.raleighmusichall.com/) - Unassuming from the outside and plain and simple on the inside means the focus at Raleigh Music Hall is, well, on the music. Enter from street level and head straight up the stairs to the second floor venue. Musical acts vary in genre, but you can typically count on a good dose of rock 'n' roll.

The Cave (452 1/2 W. Franklin St., Chapel Hill, http://www.caverntavern.com/) - The Cave is Chapel Hill's oldest tavern - enjoy the draughts of wry humor, throw back a few drinks, play some pool, or just visit with one of the several dogs who bring along their well-behaved owners. The Cave offers great local and national original live music acts almost every night. The bar has been in continuous operation since at least 1968. Shows feature a variety of musical styles: pop, rock, country, twang, folk, acoustic, funk, indie, punk, blues, bluegrass.

305 South (305 S. Dillard, Durham, http://www.305southdurham.com/) - Durham's great hope for nightlife, 305 South, hosts truly all-ages shows that attract high school students as well as music fans from all over The Triangle. There's a coffee shop with candy for sale, but no booze. As you watch the shows, you can't help but think, "What would life have been like at 16 if I'd had a place like this to come hear music?"

Cat's Cradle (300 E. Main St., Carrboro, http://www.catscradle.com/) - The Carrboro and Chapel Hill music scene boomed in the early '90s when bands such as Pearl Jam, the Dave Matthews Band, Smashing Pumpkins, Nirvana and countless others played the stage at the Cat's Cradle. The Cradle is still the only venue is town (and one of only a few in The Triangle) with the ability to draw national acts. The Cradle has a reputation of attracting the best in national and local acts from indie rock and punk to jam band and singer-songwriter.

The Brewery (3009 Hillsborough St., Raleigh, http://www.brewerync.com/) - Opened in 1983, this 300-capacity joint once saw acts like Jane’s Addiction and The Cranberries. Now, their five- to seven-night-a-week shows mean everything from reggae and rock to bluegrass and metal. A dark intimate space means you’re always assured good sounds and a good view. And while this is right next to the NC State Campus, the crowd is much more diverse.

Berkeley Cafe (217 W. Martin St., Raleigh, http://www.berkeleycafe.net/) - The Berkeley Cafe has been bringing live blues and guitar tunes to downtown Raleigh since 1980, and its popularity hasn't waned. While its unassuming exterior and shabby interior may tempt some to dismiss it as a dive, most agree: The Berkeley Cafe is comfortable.

Chaz's Bull City Records (1916 Perry St., Durham, http://www.myspace.com/bullcityrecords) - Chaz's Bull City Records opened in November of 2005, and has become a vital force for music in Durham. Out-of-town bookings tend toward the punk-rock end of the spectrum, but they also include a huge variety of local music. Shows are all-ages, nonsmoking and pass-the-hat. There is some debate as to whether Bull City Records belongs in the venues or record store category - the truth is that it gives equal time to both. They are Durham's self-proclaimed finest in punk, indie and rock 'n' roll.


The Music Loft, 1900 W. Markham Ave., Durham


For the gearheads (and those who stole their equipment on the road):

The Music Loft (1900 W. Markham Ave., Durham, http://www.musicloftdurham.com/) - The Music Loft has been serving The Triangle since 1982. It's staffed by professional musicians who care about what they do and are always friendly and ready to help. The Music Loft is an independently owned, local music store with huge inventory, discount prices and great service.

Harry's Guitar Shop (616 Glenwood Ave., Raleigh, http://www.harrysguitarshop.com/) - Superb service, straight talk, and great gear for gigging pros and first-time buyers alike. These are the hallmarks of Harry's. Founded in 1985, the shop is run by musicians for musicians. They carry an extensive line of acoustic and electric instruments, amps, effects and accessories, and also offer lessons and repairs.

Darren Riley's Guitar & Amp Repair (5720-J Capital Blvd., Raleigh, http://www.darrenriley.com/) - Darren Riley's has the area's largest selection of guitar and amp parts, plus tubes, in stock at discount prices.

Indoor Storm (2300 Westinghouse Blvd., Raleigh, http://www.indoorstorm.com/) - Indoor Storm is a chain store alternative that specializes in custom guitars and drums. They search out the best gear available, and then focus on helping musicians make the best choices to meet their individual musical needs.


Hey DJ! Spin this! Record Stores for the hardcore:

CD Alley (405 W. Franklin St., Chapel Hill) - New and used, from nerd-rock to hardcore, CD Alley serves the notorious eclecticism of Chapel Hill's abundant audiophiles. All the most obscure bands and genres are here. This is one of the few stores you'll ever set foot in where both Japanese Punk and Krautrock (German pre-industrial '80s music) are honored with their own sections. Less esoteric selections are represented as well, but don't look for mainstream pop. In addition to CDs, you will find scads of vinyl, tons of seven-inch singles, as well as boxes of DJ-friendly 12-inch singles.

Nice Price Books (3106 Hillsborough St., Raleigh) - One of the most popular used booksellers in tThe Triangle, Nice Price Books stocks a wide variety of books as well as pre-owned CDs, records and tapes.

Schoolkids Records (2316 Hillsborough St., Raleigh; 144 E. Franklin St., Chapel Hill; http://www.schoolkidsrecords.com/) - Schoolkids Records is the oldest Independent music store in the Raleigh area, with over thirty years of service to music lovers of all ages. They are proud members of the CIMS Coalition (Coalition of Independent Music Stores) which is comprised of some of the most unique and diverse music stores in America. A knowledgeable staff, good pricing and customer service have earned Schoolkids top honors in the market for many years. Whether you are looking for new or used, vinyl or CDs, DVDs or posters, Schoolkids has it all.

Crooked Beat Records (322 Glenwood Ave., Raleigh) - This ample space has been stuffed with all your favorite punk rock, electronic, underground, alternative and local favorites. There is also a decent selection of vinyl for the DJ’s among us, some previewable on the in house turntables, and a carefully chosen selection of used CD’s, all fairly priced.

Radio Free Records (2803 Hillsborough Rd., Durham) - Since opening its doors early in 2001, Radio Free Records has carved out a niche for itself, concentrating on all genres of modern independent music and offering a diverse selection of new and used CDs & records. Inside a converted house with about 1,200 square feet of space, you'll find a selection of blues, funk, soul, indie rock, electronic, reggae, punk, industrial, jazz and experimental and even some country mixed in.

Ladyslipper Music (3205 Hillsborough Rd., Durham, http://www.ladyslipper.org/) - For more than 20 years, Ladyslipper Music has been the resource for women's music. First as an annotated print catalog, and now as an Internet site, Ladyslipper offers information about an expansive variety of female musicians, writers, performers and composers, plus the musical contributions of nonsexist men. They offer CDs and tapes, as well as video recordings, songbooks and music-related books - over 1500 titles altogether. Now with technology of the 21 century, Ladyslipper can offer listening opportunities by phone and on-line. Or if you'd prefer, stop in at their Durham location on Hillsborough Road.


Museum of Life and Science, 433 W. Murray Ave., Durham


Must-visit:

Museum of Life and Science (433 W. Murray Ave., Durham, http://www.ncmls.org/) - The museum features a Magic Wings Butterfly House, shaped whimsically like a three-story glass butterfly. Hundreds of bright, exotic butterflies from all over the world drift through the air. In the Emerging Wonders Room, you'll hold your breath while wings emerge from a chrysalis. Pure magic. Inside the museum, in the vast aerospace exhibit, you can play like an astronaut. Try lining up two orbiting spacecraft, or be king of the earth! Create an earthquake, blow desert sands or walk through a tornado.

Ava Gardner Museum (325 E Market St., Smithfield, http://www.avagardner.org/) - After being kissed on the cheek by Miss Ava Gardner when he was 12 years old, Tom Bank devoted the rest of his life to memorializing this screen legend. In the town where Ava was born and buried - Smithfield, NC - Bank spent his life assembling artifacts, photos and memories of the star's life. To step into this 3,000-square-foot museum is to be swept away into a surreal landscape of Hollywood's golden age. Through hundreds of photographs, an archive of newspaper articles, portraits, and hundreds of personal objects collected by Banks and donated by family and friends, the Ava Gardner Museum illustrates every moment of the star's life, from her three marriages to her numerous movies.

North Carolina Museum of Art (2110 Blue Ridge Rd., Raleigh, http://www.ncartmuseum.org/) - With a collection spanning more than 5,000 years, the North Carolina Museum of Art is a gem more than capable of holding its own against other state art museums in the nation. At more than 180,000 square feet, this ultramodern, airy and well-lighted museum brings you everything from mummies to Monet, spanning from ancient Egypt to the present. Also housed here are numerous Roman statues and mosaics, as well as internationally heralded works by Sandro Botticelli, Raphael, Georgia O'Keeffe and Joel Shapiro. Because of its prestige among state art museums, it has hosted traveling exhibits of works by Auguste Rodin, Ansel Adams and Alphonse Mucha. Free admission.

Exploris (201 E. Hargett St., Raleigh, http://www.exploris.org/) - As the world's first interactive museum about, well, the world, Exploris challenges and encourages us to respect differences, appreciate similarities, and make connections with people all over the globe. How, you ask? Through a series of hands-on activities and performing and visual arts exhibits, this open and contemporary two-story museum teaches those both young and old about the world around us. Permanent activities include Snapshots, which captures young people's views about themselves, the world, and their shared experience of growing up today, and Global Waterways, which looks at water cycles, plants, animals, rivers, glaciers, and oceans. At People and Places, match hands-on contents to a particular region of the world and reveal information about a place as if you've traveled there yourself.



Map Showing The Triangle Area


Triangle residents! If you have a favorite hangout or rants about what's included (or not), email us. We'll consider it for our next Raleigh-Durham/Triangle update, letting other touring and local musicians know about it.


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