I mean, what’s better than spending time in good company, supporting your favorite artists, and experiencing the music we all love firsthand in its most natural form? It may just be my opinion, but there ain’t much that tops that.
With artists still seemingly trying to make up for lost time following the Covid pandemic and an extended period of sparse touring, many have hit the road especially hard this year, and as a result, there have been tons of good shows to catch this year, no matter where in the country you are located.
In an effort to encourage everyone to get out there and see their favorite bands, I’ve thrown together some of my favorite concerts I’ve seen so far this year, and with nearly half of 2023 remaining, some of the concerts I am most looking forward to catching over the next several months as well. While I recognize that most of y’all reading this likely haven’t been at many of these particular shows given their regionality, I hope that many of you have gotten to see these artists elsewhere as they tour the country and hopefully have played a venue near you.
If you haven’t seen some of these artists at all, though, I highly recommend keeping track of their touring announcements and making it happen. But whether you see these artists or not (you should), take this as a sign to go seek out live music and catch your favorites while the weather is nice and concert/festival season is fully upon us.
In an unintentional ode to the Turnpike Troubadours’ classic “7&7,” here are my seven favorite concerts I have seen so far in 2023, along with seven more I am looking forward to the most right now for the remainder of the year. So without further ado…
Top Concerts of 2023 So Far:
12/31/22- Old Crow Medicine Show, Molly Tuttle (Ryman Auditorium – Nashville, TN)
It may be cheating to include this one a bit, given that it technically took place last year, but catching my first show at the Ryman was the perfect way to ring in the new year. An annual New Year’s Eve tradition in Nashville, for Old Crow to play the Ryman, this was one of the best shows I have ever seen, and I highly recommend anyone who can make plans to see it at some point.
It was my first time seeing Molly Tuttle and Golden Highway, too, and if you haven’t witnessed one of their shows yet, you’re really missing out.
As if two of the best modern bluegrass bands on the same bill at the iconic Ryman Auditorium wasn’t enough, a surprise guest appearance by star actor and country musician Charles Esten was another highlight of a special evening, capped off by an electric countdown into 2023 and what seemed like a mass exodus by concert goers and band members alike down to Robert’s Western World to keep the night going.
Bluegrass group Town Mountain and Appalachian country artists absolutely killed their own sets, but the real magic at this show happened when Chaney came out to sing a couple songs with all of Town Mountain backing him during their set. Their cover of Steve Earl’s classic “Guitar Town” was one of the coolest performances I’ve seen this year.
Charles Wesley Godwin is one of the fastest growing artists in country music right now, so I’m trying to take advantage of seeing him at as many smaller venues as I can between his opening sets for other artists in massive venues and main stage festival slots, and before the headlining venues get just as big.
And besides, Godwin and his band The Allegheny High put on an insanely electric and engaging show no matter where they go, so if you haven’t seen it yet, you are way behind the ball on this one.
Another thing that made this show particularly special, though, was getting to see J.R. Carroll for the first time, as he took the stage with a full band and had plenty of his own fans in the crowd singing along to his songs.
Between playing the keys in Zach Bryan’s band, writing his own music, and acting as the frontman of his own band, Carroll is a man of many talents, and he just so happens to be one of the nicest guys you can meet. He’s going to be headlining these venues himself before too long.
3/4 – Billy Strings (LJVM Coliseum – Winston-Salem, NC)
There’s no show in country music like a Billy Strings show, and you may not fully understand that unless you’ve seen one for yourself. With mind blowing guitar chops and extended improvisation that’ll absolutely melt your face, Billy Strings is a generational talent, and the band behind ties up any loose ends to make it a one-of-a-kind show.
This particular show, though, followed an awesome tribute set to Doc Watson the night before, and was part of an incredible, bluegrass filled weekend in Winston-Salem celebrating Doc’s life, influence, and impact over what would have been his 100th birthday.
3/23 – BJ Barham (The Evening Muse – Charlotte, NC)
American Aquarium’s typical live shows may be full of high energy rock and roll, but what fans tend to love most about their music is the lyricism that deals with real life problems that many can relate to all too personally.
Catching the band’s frontman and songwriter BJ Barham solo was a rare opportunity to strip everything down and appreciate the lyrics and stories behind them in an extremely intimate setting. And it was awesome. The Evening Muse, another one of my favorite venues, was the perfect spot for the solo set, too.
5/11 – Cody Jinks, Charles Wesley Godwin, Erin Viancourt (Skyla Credit Union Amphitheatre – Charlotte, NC)
Cody Jinks had been near the top of my concert bucket list for several years, so by the time I was finally able to see him at this show, expectations were high. But as one of the most successful independent artists of our time, Jinks blew those expectations out of the water, and put on a show for the ages. CWG and the Allegheny High killed it too, of course, and Erin Viancourt, the first artist signed to Jinks’ label, proved she’s a star in the making.
5/13 – Molly Tuttle, 49 Winchester, Susto, Lilly Hiatt, Time Sawyer, Paleface (Historic Rural Hill – North Carolina Brewers and Music Festival – Huntersville, NC)
There’s a reason Molly Tuttle and her all star band Golden Highway have been nominated for nearly ten International Bluegrass Music Association awards, and it is obvious every time they take the stage.
With a high energy show that harkens back to country music’s roots yet embodies a modern aspect of improvisation that’ll keep you on your toes as long as they’re on stage, Molly Tuttle & Golden Highway need to be high on everyone’s list from now on.
The North Carolina Brewers and Music Festival might be one of festival season’s best kept secrets, especially as they bring in top tier acts like these.
One by one each act blew the music-hungry crowd away, but aside from Molly Tuttle & Golden Highway, 49 Winchester was a highlight as well. More on them to come…
Concerts I’m Most Looking Forward to for the Rest of 2023:
7/28 – Flatland Cavalry, Pony Bradshaw (The National – Richmond, VA)
Flatland Cavalry is a spectacular live band and I am pumped to catch them in a new venue I’ve been interested in checking out for quite some time. It’s been nearly two years since I’ve last seen Flatland headline a show, and while their sets at Greenville Country Music Fest last fall and opening for Luke Combs a couple weeks ago were awesome, there’s nothing like seeing a band you love when they’re the main attraction.
Pony Bradshaw is going to be awesome, too. Following the release of his North Georgia Rounder earlier this year, Bradshaw has plenty of momentum on his side and I can only imagine how great “Van Gogh” is going to sound in person.
8/3 – American Aquarium (Neighborhood Theatre – Charlotte, NC)
An American Aquarium show is a uniquely awesome experience, given the juxtaposition between the band’s seemingly endless catalog of sad songs and frontman BJ Barham’s propensity to put on a full blown rock and roll production. These guys bring the energy no matter where they’re playing, but it always feels a bit more special when they’re playing Barham’s home state. I’ve been looking forward to seeing my favorite North Carolina band at my favorite North Carolina venue for quite a while now, and with the opportunity to do so coming in just a few weeks, I can hardly wait to throw down to some sad rock and roll songs.
8/18 – Tyler Childers, S.G. Goodman, Abbey Hamilton (White Oak Amphitheatre – Wilmington, NC)
Tyler Childers is one of the hottest tickets in country music right now, and while most of his shows sold out quickly, I’m glad I was one of the lucky ones and snagged tickets to a couple shows on his summer tour. A true superstar in the genre, Childers’ unassuming rise to the top of country music is proof that real country music isn’t dead, and I’m excited to see his unique show at a new venue.
It’ll be my first time seeing S.G. Goodman and Abbey Hamilton, so I’m sure they’ll live up to my high expectations as well. Maybe we could even get a duet from Childers and Goodman on her song “Time and Space” that Childers covered a while back, who knows?
9/23 – Turnpike Troubadours, Lucero, Reckless Kelly (The Anthem – Washington D.C.)
The greatest band of all time at another bucket list venue, that ought to be enough said here. The headlining show I’ll be able to attend on this run of summer shows, the band’s highly anticipated comeback record A Cat in the Rain will be by the time this show comes around and hearing all those tracks live is going to be special. If I had to guess, this one will probably be my favorite show of the year when it’s all said and done.
As with any show, it helps that the openers are spectacular in their own right. Alt-country legends Lucero have been on the bucket list for years now, and Reckless Kelly is one of the most underrated live bands out there, in my opinion.
10/15 – Southall, The Weathered Souls (The Underground – Charlotte, NC)
Southall may have rebranded following years as Read Southall Band, but if the two singles they’ve released recently for their upcoming self-titled Southall record are any indication, then their iconic sound is staying just the same. With high-energy country rockers The Weathered Souls opening the show, this is a prime opportunity to hear some top tier rock and roll.
11/18 – Shane Smith and the Saints (Variety Playhouse – Atlanta, GA)
When you see a Shane Smith & the Saints show, you know right away you’re in for a performance when they come out with instruments blazing to “The Gael,” one of the most iconic intro songs in country music. With one of the deepest, strongest catalogs out there, they play a full set with no weak link and keep that energy going all throughout the show. I’ve only gotten to see them once, so I can’t wait to see them again in a new venue.
I haven’t seen any band more than I’ve seen 49 Winchester, but like many bands on this list, one simply can’t see too many 49 Winchester shows. With their signature brand of Appalachian soul music on full display, these budding country music superstars seem to get even better with each show they play, and it’s no coincidence the crowds keep getting better with each one. When I first saw 49 Winchester play the Neighborhood Theatre’s smaller side stage in February 2022, there couldn’t have been many more than 100-200 people there. Just nine months later, when they headlined the near 1,000 capacity main room, they nearly sold it out, and I suspect it’ll be a packed house again this time. The people are taking notice, so catch them in one of these smaller venues before they grow out of this stage.
Carter Faith, who is from the Charlotte area, seems to be getting bigger and bigger by the day, too. She played the first set on the main stage at Greenville Country Music Fest last year, and despite being an early performer, she commanded the stage and won over plenty of new fans that day. With spectacular vocals that are a force to be reckoned with, seeing Carter Faith in a more intimate venue is bound to add to the experience as well.