I sure hope the answer is yes. There is no better way to consume music than by seeing and hearing it played live, alongside other people sharing in the same experience. It’s hard to beat live music in any capacity, but especially when one of your favorite artists is playing at a great venue or event, there’s really nothing like it. Attending concerts is the best way to support your favorite artists, too.
I am lucky to have attended some pretty amazing concerts this year, seeing many of my favorite artists once again, and catching many others live for the first time. For the third year in a row, I’ve compiled a list below of my favorite shows I saw this past year, and while I know nobody particularly cares what shows I’ve been going to, I hope it at least inspires anyone reading to get out there and check out some live music themselves. If you are looking for some suggestions as to who should be at the top of your priority list for concerts in 2024, the short answer is The Red Clay Strays, but you’re in the right place with plenty of great acts listed below.
Now, before we get into it, I recognize that the majority of the shows I attended this year were in North Carolina, at a handful of repeated venues, and are not shows that the vast majority of readers would have been able to attend even had they wanted to. But that’s besides the point here. While you may not have seen the exact same show, there’s a solid chance the same artists came through your city this year, on the same tour, and maybe this will remind you how awesome that show was, or remind you that you missed out and need to make it happen next time around.
One more disclaimer – Most of the shows I choose to see are at smaller venues for several reasons. First of all, that’s just where most of my favorite artists play when they come through town, but seeing shows at smaller venues also makes for such a better experience all around. Less hassle, shorter lines, a more intimate show – seeing concerts is much more simple than driving out to the big amphitheater outside of town with the biggest names, or waiting in line to get into a stadium show.
I highly recommend supporting your local, independent music venues every chance you get. The big shows are great too, and to see acts like Tyler Childers and the Turnpike Troubadours these days, that’s just what you gotta do. But smaller shows are just much more enjoyable. So while there are quite a few big names on my list, there are even more up and coming names with whom you may or may not be familiar yet, and hopefully you’ll find some new artists to add to your concert bucket list this year.
So, without further ado, check out my 30 favorite shows I saw in 2023.
30. Hayes Carll (U.S. National Whitewater Center – Charlotte, NC)
29. Lucero, Jason Boland & the Stragglers (Neighborhood Theatre – Charlotte, NC)
28. Dierks Bentley, Elle King, The Red Clay Strays (PNC Music Pavilion – Charlotte, NC)
27. Pierce Edens, Nicholas Jamerson (The Evening Muse – Charlotte, NC)
26. Colby Acuff, Chris McGinnis (The Evening Muse – Charlotte, NC)
25. Southall, The Weathered Souls (The Underground – Charlotte, NC)
24. Jason Eady, Midnight River Choir (The Evening Muse – Charlotte, NC)
23. Ritch Henderson, Justin Clyde Williams (The Evening Muse – Charlotte, NC)
22. John Fullbright (The Evening Muse – Charlotte, NC)
21. Cody Jinks, Charles Wesley Godwin, Erin Viancourt (Skyla Credit Union Amphitheatre – Charlotte, NC)
20. Town Mountain, Cole Chaney (Visulite Theatre – Charlotte, NC)
19. Clay Street Unit, Rachel Baiman, Ashtyn Barbaree (Amos’ Southend – Charlotte, NC)
18. Mike and the Moonpies, Erin Viancourt (Amos’ Southend – Charlotte, NC)
17. Gabe Lee, Josh Morningstar (The Evening Muse – Charlotte, NC)
16. Luke Combs, Turnpike Troubadours, Gary Allan, Brent Cobb (Bank of America Stadium – Charlotte, NC)
15. Tyler Childers, SG Goodman, Abbey Hamilton (White Oak Pavilion – Wilmington, NC)
14. American Aquarium, Jon Charles Dwyer (Neighborhood Theatre – Charlotte, NC)
13. Flatland Cavalry, Pony Bradshaw (The National – Richmond, VA)
11. The Steel Woods, Zach Top (Amos’ Southend – Charlotte, NC)
10. BJ Barham (of American Aquarium) (The Evening Muse – Charlotte, NC)
I could listen to BJ Barham tell stories and play acoustic songs for hours on end. The rapport the American Aquarium frontman is able to build with the crowd night in night out, at venue after venue, is truly something special. And it was even stronger on his solo tour this year, revisiting some of the smaller listening rooms American Aquarium came up playing years ago to perform a laid back acoustic set of deep cuts and classics.
Perhaps the most special part of BJ’s solo run, though, is hearing the emotional stories and the humorous ones, behind each of the tunes he plays. One of the best songwriters in the world, he’s equally as captivating of a storyteller.
9. 49 Winchester, Myron Elkins (The Windjammer – Isle of Palms, SC)
There is no band I’ve seen as many times as I’ve seen 49 Winchester, and I still get incredibly excited leading up to each show. They are on the very short list of the best live bands out there, and catching them on the beach at one of the south’s coolest, most unique venues was an awesome experience. My first look at up and comer Myron Elkins was incredibly impressive, too – you’re going to want to remember that name this year.
And if you’re just really wishing you were at that show too, or you were and you want to relive it, someone filmed the entire thing from their phone outside the venue for everyone’s viewing pleasure.
8. Wyatt Flores, Eddie Flint (Neighborhood Theatre – Charlotte, NC)
I’ve been to tons of shows at the Neighborhood Theatre, one of my favorite venues in the world, and I’ve never seen a line as long as the one I saw when I arrived for the Wyatt Flores show. A sub-1,000 capacity venue, the line stretched several blocks well before the venue even opened, and the sold out crowd packed the place in to see Wyatt Flores on his first visit to Charlotte.
7. The Marcus King Band, Edwin McCain, Darby Wilcox & the Peepshow, Marvin King, Fine Arts Center Jazz All Stars, Shannon Hoover Trio (Doin’ It For Dingledine – The Foundry – Greenville, SC) (Marshall Tucker Band)
The city of Greenville, South Carolina came together for great music and an even better cause a few weeks ago, raising money for Matt Dingledine, a local jazz guitarist, teacher and friend to many, as he undergoes serious cancer treatment. With a lineup full of local Greenville acts, headlined by The Marcus King Band, and special appearances from several Marshall Tucker Band members highlighted the show as everyone was on stage to close with their classics “This Ol’ Cowboy” and “Can’t You See.”
Marcus King is one of the best guitarists out there right now, and as a Greenville native, he honed his craft under Dingledine’s instructions at some point along the way, and did an awesome thing bringing the community together in his honor.
J.R. Carroll’s songwriting and vocals are forces to be reckoned with, and when he plays with a full band backing him, it’s a powerful experience. He had been on my bucket list for quite some time, and while my expectations were lofty, he blew them out of the water, even despite being slightly under the weather while doing so.
Charles Wesley Godwin is the entertainer of the year in my book, and his band The Allegheny High sure knows how to keep the people on their feet. An electric show anywhere he plays, I saw CWG more than any other artist this year, and it still never gets old. He was the first artist to sell the venue out on back to back nights in several years, and I’m glad I got to see it, because he’ll be playing bigger and bigger venues each time he comes through town until he’s selling out stadiums. The sky’s the limit for Charles Wesley Godwin and The Allegheny High.
5. North Carolina Brewers and Music Festival (Historic Rural Hill – Huntersville, NC)
Lineups: Day 1 – Steep Canyon Rangers, Kaitlin Butts, Kiely Connell. Day 2 – Molly Tuttle & Golden Highway, 49 Winchester, Susto, Lilly Hiatt, Time Sawyer, Paleface
4. The Red Clay Strays, Meg McRee (Amos’ Southend – Charlotte, NC)
The Red Clay Strays are the hottest up and coming band in music right now, and for good reason. Their live show is unmatched.
The five-piece band is in constant motion on stage, bringing a high energy, guitar slinging southern rock show to growing crowds in each city they stop. Playing the majority of their sole album Moment of Truth, and sprinkling in several covers and plenty of unreleased music as their sophomore album approaches this year, the band performs like no other, and should be at the very top of your concert bucket list in 2024. Just buy those tickets fast, because they don’t last long.
3. Old Crow Medicine Show, Molly Tuttle & Golden Highway, Charles Esten (Ryman Auditorium – Nashville, TN)
It may be cheating a little bit to include this concert on the list, considering that it was really on 12/31/2022, but it was 2023 by the time the show was over and my 2022 concert list was posted before I saw this show last year, so we’re keeping it. It was too amazing not to. A Nashville tradition since 2009, Old Crow Medicine Show at The Ryman Auditorium on New Years Eve is the best way to ring in the new year each year, and I was lucky enough to attend leading into 2023.
Molly Tuttle & Golden Highway killed it, as always, and OCMS delivered an all-time show full of incredible bluegrass and their typical back and forth on stage banter that makes it as much a comedy show as anything. With a special appearance of Charles Esten, and an encore that rang in the new year with both bands on stage for several songs, it was a truly special experience that I recommend to everyone. It gives me goosebumps just thinking about it.
2. Turnpike Troubadours, Lucero, Reckless Kelly (The Anthem – Washington D.C.)
The only chance I got this year to see the greatest band in the world headline, this Turnpike Troubadours show came shortly after the release of A Cat in the Rain, the band’s first album in six years and the best album of 2023. While the set mainly consisted of the pre-hiatus classics, aside from a few new ones, the excitement in the air is still palpable at each one of their shows, as many of their fans latched onto their music during the hiatus, and are still getting to see them for the first time ever as they ramp up their presence on the road.
The Turnpike Troubadours are the greatest band to ever play country music, and their live show is all the proof anyone should need.
1. Billy Strings (Doc Watson’s 100th Birthday Celebration – Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum – Winston-Salem, NC)
An incredible weekend for bluegrass fans, Billy Strings descended upon my hometown of Winston-Salem, NC this past March to celebrate the posthumous 100th birthday of bluegrass legend Doc Watson. One of the genre’s forefathers, Billy covers Watson’s music frequently in his live shows, and fittingly, the first of two nights at The Joel Coliseum was strictly a tribute to Doc Watson. The guitar phenom stayed on stage for over three hours straight, playing 47 Doc Watson and traditional bluegrass covers, and bringing on several special guests like Molly Tuttle, Bryan Sutton, and Wyatt Ellis, among others.
The second night, Billy was back to playing his own music, and he took the audience through a sonic adventure for the ages. There’s a reason that out of all of the live music he has played in his career, Billy Strings chose a 38 minute stretch from his Winston-Salem, NC show on March 4, 2023 as the lead release for his forthcoming and first ever live compilation record.
Now get out there and do your part in supporting live music. You won’t regret it.