Loving Live Music on the Outer Banks

By Molly Harrison | Wednesday, July 5, 2023

“Live Music is Better, Bumper Stickers Should Be Issued.” Do you know which rock star said that?  

It was Neil Young on the track “Union Man” from the 1980 album Hawks and Doves. And while I love that recorded album, I agree with Neil: Live music is totally better. Luckily, on the Outer Banks this summer there are plentiful ways to enjoy live music, everything from big outdoor shows by national touring bands to indoor performances by regional acts to chill acoustic sets by our seriously talented locals in parks, restaurants and backyards. Keep reading for some of the highlights, and be sure to check through our Nightlife listings for more live music happenings every single day of the summer.

Photo: Outer Banks Brewing Station has the perfect stage and dance floor set up for touring live bands.

Smokin’ Grass & BBQ Festival

Saturday, July 8 at Roanoke Island Festival Park in Manteo

Let’s kick things off with a new music festival, the Smokin’ Grass Festival, coming up this weekend. A side show of the hugely popular Bluegrass Island Festival, which will be held October 19 through 21, this new summer festival brings together six popular bluegrass bands and five BBQ pitmasters in the beautiful outdoor amphitheater at Roanoke Island Festival Park. Cooking the food will be Carolina Shine BBQ, Spare Parts BBQ, Sooey’s BBQ, Nuts & Buds BBQ and Jolly’s Catering. Tickets, $55, can be purchased here

The music lineup:

Liam Purcell & Cane Mill Road - 12:30 p.m.
Into the Fog - 2:15 p.m.
Songs from the Road Band - 4 p.m.
Breaking Grass - 5:45 p.m.
Frank Solivan & Dirty Kitchen - 7:30 p.m.
The Kitchen Dwellers - 9:15 p.m.

Lettuce grooving at Vusic OBX in June of 2023.

Vusic OBX

July and August, Roanoke Island Festival Park, Manteo

Vusic OBX brings big-name touring acts to the Outer Banks for shows in the spectacular soundfront setting of Roanoke Island Festival Park. These well-organized events combine music, food trucks, vendors and big crowds of fellow live music lovers, and they make it easy with shuttles, VIP seating and so much more. Tickets can be purchased here

Upcoming shows:

July 14 and 15: Vusic B-side event: Chairmen of the Board at the Pioneer Theater in Manteo
July 22: Jake Owne with Niko Moon and Cooper Greer
July 27: Travis Tritt
July 29: OBX is for Lovers Festival with Thrice, Bayside, Hawthorne Heights, 3OH!2, Four Year Strong, Red Jumpsuit Apparatus, Emery and Frontside
August 2: Sublime with Rome
August 4: Vusic B-side event: Grateful Dub at Jack Brown’s
August 6: Dirty Heads with Lupe Frasco
August 10: Joe Russo’s Almost Dead
August 15: Kidz Bop
August 18: Matisyahu + G. Love & Special Sauce with Cydeways

The Courtyard Sessions: Live at Lunch

Wednesdays, 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., Dare Arts, Downtown Manteo

Dare Arts offers a little live music lunch break each Wednesday from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. in Downtown Manteo. Bring a picnic from a local restaurant and stop by for as long as you can to enjoy music from tried-and-true local acts. These shows are free.

Upcoming performances:
July 12: Mary Joy McDaniel 
July 19: Ruth Wyand
July 26: Scott Franson
August 2: Bill Rea
August 9: Ruth Wyand
August 19: Devin Frazier 
August 23: Steve Hauser
August 30: Devin Frazier 
September 6: Rory Kelleher
September 13: Julien McCarthy
September 20: Sam On Sax
September 27: Scott Sechman

The Storyweavers performing for a lunchtime audience in Manteo.

Dowdy Park Summer Concert Series

Wednesdays, 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., Dowdy Park, Nags Head

The Town of Nags Head’s Dowdy Park is such a cool venue with a big grassy field for events and a great playground for children. Bring a picnic and a blanket for these free outdoor conserts.

July 12 - The Mo-Rons
July 19 - Mercy Creek
July 26 - Partly Crowdy
August 2 - 82nd Airborne Band
August 9 - Justin & The Common Good
August 16 - Mama's Black Sheep

Duck Concerts on the Green

Thursdays, 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., Duck Town Park

The Town of Duck sponsors live music shows in their lovely Duck Town Park, and the shows are free. Bring a picnic, blankets and chairs.

July 6: Don Rosnato Trio
July 13: Formula
July 20: Daniel Jordan Band
July 27: The Blue Dogs
August 3: TBD
August 10: MikeMickXer
August 17: doby
August 24: TommyV Band
August 31: Marshall Paul Band
September 7: Stereo in Words
September 14: SoulONE

The USAF Heritage of America Heritage Brass Band getting set up to perform in Duck Town Park in May.

Outer Banks Live Music Locations

The Outer Banks does not have nightclubs, per se. We have restaurant/bars that host live music indoors and out, thus transforming into nightlife venues, and I’ll tell you about some of those here. Many, many restaurants on the Outer Banks offer live acoustic music in the summer months, often as a way to pass the time while you’re waiting for a table; you can find some of those listings in our Nightlife section.

Outer Banks Brewing Station

Kill Devil Hills

Outer Banks Brewing Station is one of the only venues with a real indoor stage to host big live bands. Some of this summer’s highlights:
July 8: Easy Honey
July 13: Fortunate Youth with Cultivated Mind
July 28: New Potato Caboose
July 29: Red Not Chili Peppers
August 5: Sam Brutchfield and the Scoundrels
August 11: Bumpin’ Uglies
August 12: Thurston Howell Band
August 19: Nirvani

The Brewing Station also offers live music in the backyard nightly except Tuesdays. Click here to see the full calendar.

Tap Shack


Tucked away behind Coastal Cravings in Duck is this little yard bar that packs a big musical punch. Here are some the highlights of the July lineup. See the rest here

July 6: Royal Horses
July 10: Ruth Wyand
July 12: Derek Smith & New Day
July 15: Sisters and Brothers Acoustic
July 20: Bird Dog
July 21: Keller Williams
July 22: Keller Williams

The Outer Banks is home to some seriously great musicians, like blueswoman Ruth Wyand, pictured above.

First Friday

Downtown Manteo

Every first Friday of the month, Manteo lights up with live music all over town. Just show up, grab a drink and walk around to enjoy free live music in several locations. The next one coming up is August 4 with Justin Trawick at Dare Arts, Vinny Blues Travelin’ Road Show on Old Tom Street, Bill Rea at 1587 Lounge, The Conch Shells at Poor Richards and Toolan & Evans at NouVines.

Other great places to catch occasional live music:

Corolla: Sun Dogs, Uncle Ike's, Mike Dianna’s Grill Room
Duck: Village Table and Tavern, Rundown Cafe
Kitty Hawk: Art’s Place, Longboards, Hurricane Mo's
Kill Devil Hills: Jack Brown's, Bonzer Shack, Avalon Pier, Blue Crab Tavern, Swells’a Brewing
Nags Head: Mahi Mahi’s, Fishheads at Outer Banks Pier, Basnight’s Lone Cedar Cafe, Capt. Andy's at Nags Head Fishing Pier
Manteo: Poor Richard’s, NouVines
Hatteras: The Froggy Dog, Koru Beach Klub
Ocracoke: Ocracoke Oyster Co., The Breeze

If you love live music, you'll love the free Duck Jazz Festival, coming up on October 7 and 8, 2023.

About the Author Molly Harrison
Molly Harrison is managing editor at OneBoat, publisher of OuterBanksThisWeek.com. She moved to Nags Head in 1994 and since then has made her living writing articles and creating publications about the people, places and culture of the Outer Banks.