Asheville Venue Guide: Asheville’s Iconic Music Venues
There are venues, and then there are iconic music halls – those place where stages have been graced by music legends, or in some cases, help made them legends. In Asheville those places are revamped skating rinks, born again movie theaters, and old warehouses turned into temples to rock and roll. If you’re looking to catch a show while in Asheville, then here are the more iconic venues you should consider.
Now a host to acts like the Black Keys, Madeski Martin & Wood, and Bob Dylan, the Orange Peel was once a famous black soul and RnB club back in the 60’s, hosting the likes of the Commodores and the Bar-Kays. Its revitalization in 2002 revived a vital part of Asheville’s musical heritage and preserved a building once used in the 50s as the neighborhood skating rink. With capacity for over 1,000, two bars featuring dozens of local drafts, and a basement cocktail lounge with a live stream from the stage, it’s easy to see why The Orange Peel was named one of Rolling Stone Magazine’s Top 5 Rock Clubs in Nation.
Venue Vibe: Meet your new favorite music hall. The best part of catching a show at The Orange Peel is the intimacy of the performance space. No matter where you stand you’ll feel like you’re up close and personal with the band.
One of the longest standing venues in Asheville, the Grey Eagle was a pivotal force in the development of the music culture in Asheville. A progenitor of the indie scene in Western North Carolina, this former warehouse-turned-venue has hosted early shows from such acts as the War On Drugs, the Silver Jews, Dr. Dog, and Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings during their formative years. It’s a guaranteed place to find the next up and coming acts before they hit the mainstream.
Dine & Dance: This laid-back performance space offers the chance to get up close and personal with your favorite emerging and established artists. Be sure to check out the full menu of local brew and bites at the in-house Taqueria.
The oldest venue in Asheville, the former US Cellular Center is home to two venues, the larger arena with capacity for over 7,000, and the more intimate Thomas Wolfe Auditorium with room for around 2,500. Opened in 1974, these venues have played host to internationally famous music and comedy acts alike like Bob Dylan, Elton John, Jerry Seinfeld, Phish, and The National. The US Cellular Center is Asheville’s home for the Asheville Symphony and Asheville’s Blue Ridge Roller Girls Roller Derby team.
You Can Dance if You Want to: For most large-arena shows, the floor of the US Cellular Center is open to cut loose and dance, whereas Thomas Wolfe is perfect to catch a seated performance. Each space offers concessions ranging from family-friendly options to local brew and spirits.
One of the most beautiful venues in Asheville, the nonprofit Diana Wortham Theater seeks to provide a little education with its entertainment, hosting chamber orchestras, the Asheville Lyric Opera, and various international acts like Japan’s Yamato Drummers or Ireland’s Altan. The 500 seat opera-style theater and its massive stage also plays host to the annual Music Video Asheville awards ceremony which centers around the work of the region's best pop, rock, and hip-hop acts, as well as touring theater companies and dance troupes.
Early arrival tips: Depending on the show, it often pays to arrive a little earlier to the theatre to take advantage of pre-opening events hosted in the foyer.
Named for the movie theater that once occupied the old building in 1930’s, the renovated space holds two stages. The smaller stage, tucked away in the upstairs lounge has become a mainstay for smaller acts, singers and songwriters, and jazz quartets. The larger stage set before the massive dining room and music hall that once held the theater, hosts a variety of regional bluegrass and folk acts like Merlefest on the Road, as well as weekly jazz nights on the weekends with shows in both the lounge and the music hall. Tables do tend to fill up quickly, so it is best to make your reservations ahead of time for evening shows.
Dinner and a Show: Perfect for date night, Isis combines their passion for food with music. Dinner shows are offered on a regular basis, but for those who only want to dance, the dining hall is often changed over to accommodate standing room shows as well.