Your Guide to Live Music in Winston-Salem
Citywide festivals, free concert series, iconic venues — Winston-Salem has them all.
Winston-Salem’s storied live music scene is built on a shared creativity and community spirit. Nearly every night of the week, local talent shines brightly at dozens of local bars, clubs, and other venues in town. Whether you want to rock out at the annual Gears & Guitars Festival, dance the night away at a Downtown Jazz concert, or simply check out some homegrown talent at a local brewery, you’re sure to find a suitable sound. So grab your friends, hit the town, and let the grooves be your guide.
TOP LIVE MUSIC VENUES
When it comes to music venues in Winston-Salem, The Ramkat reigns supreme. The two-story, 1,000-capacity hall opened in 2018 on the north end of downtown, occupying a space once filled by another iconic venue, Ziggy’s. In addition to its excellent sightlines and acoustics, the warehouse-style venue is designed for adaptability, making it ideal for both large-scale shows and intimate acts. The main hall is complemented by a smaller upstairs lounge, the Gas Hill Drinking Room, which holds around 100 guests.
Headliners such as Ben Folds, The Wallflowers, Drive-By Truckers, and Lucinda Williams have all played The Ramkat in recent years, along with a variety of local and regional acts playing everything from indie rock to hip-hop to blues to bluegrass. And while live music is obviously the big draw, The Ramkat occasionally ventures into other art forms such as theatre, film, and dance. For a look at all upcoming shows this summer, check out The Ramkat’s event calendar
The Coal Pit (at Incendiary Brewing)
Set in the shadow of the iconic R.J. Reynolds smokestacks, the Coal Pit is a public park-like gathering space in Bailey Power Plant, adjacent to Incendiary Brewing Company. The concrete-lined pit was once filled with — you guessed it — COAL, which powered the tobacco factories that ruled the east side of downtown. Like much of its Innovation Quarter surroundings, the pit sat empty for decades until a massive revitalization brought it back to life in 2018. These days the Coal Pit is abuzz with activity, particularly Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays when it hosts a free concert series known as Coal Pit Live. The concerts usually spotlight local and regional acts with the occasional headliner mixed in (including Fuel and The Gin Blossoms). You can view upcoming shows by visiting the Shows & Events page.
Over the past decade, some of the city’s biggest summer concerts have unfolded at a place not typically known for live music — the Winston-Salem Fairgrounds Annex. While the venue is well-known for ice skating in the winter and the Carolina Classic Fair in the fall, it’s recently made waves as a mecca for live music during the summer months, thanks to its annual Indoor Concert Series. This year’s Concert Series includes a little of everything, from R&B legends to country music icons. (See remaining 2023 concerts below). For more info or tickets, visit the Fairgrounds website
FIVE MORE FAVORITE SPOTS
Bar Nola. Set in the historic West End Millworks Complex, just outside downtown, this New Orleans-themed venue features live music several nights a week.
Earl’s. This lively space in downtown’s Industry Hill area features live country music on Fridays and Saturday evenings, plus a popular Open Mic Night on Wednesdays.
Foothills Tasting Room. While Foothills downtown brewpub occasionally hosts concerts (including Sunday night jazz), the Tasting Room features an eclectic mix of live music throughout the weekend.
Monstercade. Dubbed “the strangest bar in North Carolina,” this campy venue spotlights original bands you won’t hear in other parts of the city — everything from metal to punk rock and more.
ROAR. This four-story entertainment hub packs a lot of amenities under one roof (bowling, mini golf, a rooftop bar, and more). Among the offerings is live local music, which can be heard in the first-floor food hall multiple nights a week.
OUR FAVORITE CONCERT SERIES
From community band concerts to headlining rock acts, Winston-Salem's live music scene comes alive in the summer months with a number of free concerts. Here are a few favorites to keep in mind for 2024.
Gears & Guitars
Bills as “the biggest party of two wheels,” the annual Gears & Guitars festival returns May 24-26, 2024, bringing world-class cyclists and big-name music acts along with it. The mutli-day festival features pro racing events, community bike rides, and (of course) lots of live music. Last year’s event attracted more than 1,000 cyclists and 7,500 attendees — and things should be even bigger in 2024 as the event shifts from late summer back to its Memorial Day Weekend roots. As always, the concerts will occur in the Innovation Quarter area of downtown (specifically, Bailey Park). Headlining musical acts should be announced in early 2024. For more info, go to click here
Downtown Summer Music Series
The Downtown Summer Music Series has evolved quite a bit since its debut in 1998, but it remains one of Winston-Salem’s most-anticipated events of the season. The series features two different events. Downtown Jazz brings some of the country’s top jazz artists to town every other Friday night for a concert in downtown's Corpening Plaza. Summer on Fourth is held on select Saturdays throughout the summer in front of Foothills Brewing on Fourth, between Poplar and Spruce Streets. Known for years as Summer on Liberty — and before that, Summer on Trade — the concerts continue to bring some of the region's most popular musical acts to town, from rock/pop acts to party-band favorites. Dates and acts for 2024 should be announced in the late spring on the series website,
Salem Band Concert Series
As the oldest mixed-wind ensemble in the nation, the 250-year-old Salem Band has long been part of Winston-Salem’s summer soundtrack, thanks to their annual concert series at Old Salem’s Salem Square. Held on select Tuesday evenings, the free concerts all feature a different theme this year, from “Awesome 80s” to a patriotic “Stars & Stripes” concert around July 4. Food trucks are always on hand, but you can also pack snacks or a picnic supper — and don’t forget a blanket or lawn chair, as Salem Square has no formal seating. Check Salem Band’s Facebook page for upcoming details on 2024 concerts.
Summer Parks Concert Series
Presented by the Arts Council of Winston-Salem, the Summer Parks Concert Series is a monthly music series that alternates between Tanglewood Park in Clemmons and Triad Park in Kernersville. Concerts are on Saturday and Sunday afternoons from May through October. For more info on the concert series, go to intothearts.org/parks
SIDE NOTES - What else to know about the local music scene
The spaces and concert series highlighted above are just a sampling of all the places to experience live music in Winston-Salem. Popular venues come in all shapes and sizes here, with several prominent event spaces and attractions occasionally holding big-time concerts — among them the Millennium Center, The Barn at Reynolda Village, SECCA, Scales Fine Arts Center (at WFU), and Truist Stadium (home of Winston-Salem Dash baseball).
Looking for large-scale, arena-style rock shows? You’ll find them at the 14,665-seat LJVM Coliseum and neighboring Allegacy Stadium (formerly known as Truist Field), where blockbuster acts such as Elton John, Guns ‘n’ Roses, Billy Joel, and Paul McCartney have played in recent years. Meanwhile, many of the city’s top performing arts groups — including Piedmont Opera and the Winston-Salem Symphony — take the stage at two historic theatres in town: the enchanting Reynolds Auditorium and downtown's majestic Steven's Center (currently undergoing renovations).
For a look at more live music events in town, check out Visit Winston-Salem’s Events Calendar