Music has always been a big part of my life. Moving recently from New York, I was pleasantly surprised by the diverse and vibrant music scene in Durham and the greater Triangle area. With many live concert and music venues hosting various artists throughout the year, you can always find a show of any genre on any given day. Many well-known musicians often include a stop in the area during their tours. And it is also exciting to discover some incredibly talented local musicians.

Exploring the local music scene and its variety of venues has been my favorite off-campus experience so far. In addition to following tour announcements of my favorite artists and subscribing to the venues’ newsletters, I often pick up a copy of the Indy Week newspaper and browse through the music section to learn about when, where, and who will be jamming some music in the area. Here are a few of my favorite spots.

local music scene: a three-piece band performing at Motorco


723 Rigsbee Avenue, Durham, NC 27701

Conveniently located right across from The Pit, a popular barbeque spot, and Fullsteam, one of the best local breweries, Motorco is a fun place to spend an evening. The space was converted from a midcentury car dealership and is Durham’s biggest music club. I like Motorco’s overall industrial style. Even when it gets full with big headliners, I never find it overly crowded. In addition to the space for music, it has an adjacent full bar featuring craft beers and a kitchen offering small plates inspired by global street food.

local music scene: a band performing at Pinhook


117 West Main St. Durham, NC 27701

Pinhook is a much smaller and more intimate venue located in downtown Durham. It has a down-to-earth and laidback vibe, and the staff is very friendly. Like many places in the area, it provides a great community feeling. Because of its limited space, it can get packed and stuffy when there is a sold-out show, so be prepared to get sweaty if you happen to be at one of those.

local music scene: an act performing onstage at the Cat's Cradle

Cat’s Cradle

300 East Main Street, Carrboro, NC 27510

Just a 20-minute drive away from Durham, Cat’s Cradle—near Chapel Hill in Carrboro—might be one of the most famous live music establishments in the Triangle. It has been around for more than 40 years and has hosted a variety of great artists. As it has two separate spaces, on any given night, there might be a national headlining show going on in the main room, and a more intimate performance by local musicians in the back room. The back room is cash only, and while there is an ATM, bring some cash if you want to avoid the hassle.

local music scene: a band onstage at the Haw River Ballroom

Haw River Ballroom

1711 Saxapahaw-Bethlehem Church Road, Saxapahaw, NC 27340

Thrity miles west of Durham, Hall River Ballroom is a music venue located in a small town called Saxapahaw. Going there is like a small adventure. Getting off the highway and driving through the farmland, you will find a small strip of local business surrounding this live concert space that was converted from a historic cotton mill. It has three levels, and its outdoor decks allow people to enjoy a great view of the Haw River during the day and starry sky at night. Although parking could be a little tricky, it is still totally worth taking a trip there to enjoy some music at a unique and charming space.

local music scene: a duo on stage in a music hall

A Few Others

This is by no means an exhaustive list. The Durham Performing Arts Center is ranked as one of the top-ten theaters in the country. Head to the nearby city of Raleigh, and you can find some large stadiums and amphitheaters that attract the largest national acts as well as smaller venues like Kings and Lincoln Theatre. For those who enjoy music festival experiences, Raleigh also has large annual events like Hopscotch and the Wide Open Bluegrass festivals in September that attract audiophiles from across the country.

With all these great options, I am excited about continuing to explore the eclectic music scene in the area. For all my fellow music lovers, we are exactly where we need to be.

students enjoying music venues in Durham