A Review of The Fillmore Charlotte Music Venue

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Before you read on, I must begin with this disclaimer: it has been more than two years since I visited The Fillmore Charlotte, so things may have changed significantly since then. However, there’s a good reason why I haven’t been to this venue in two years, and it’s this:

I had a horrible experience that made me never want to go there again. 

As you can probably guess, this is not a positive review. I have been given no compensation to write it. I just wanted to give my honest opinion and offer some suggestions that all music venues in the queen city could stand to benefit from.

As a singer-songwriter, I love attending live concerts. I went to the Fillmore to see Lauryn Hill perform over two years ago. I was on a date with my husband, and it was the first concert I had been to in a while. I was also 8 months pregnant.

The tickets were pretty expensive. I don’t remember exactly how much they cost. I just remember that I thought we had overpaid, especially given the nature of the venue and the fact that Lauryn was super late to her own performance. I had heard that was typical for her though, and I know that’s not the venue’s fault. But still … her reputation for being late is no secret, and the tickets could have been priced accordingly.

We went to Cabo Fish Taco to eat dinner before going to the concert. We arrived about 15 minutes before it was scheduled to start, and the opening acts were horrible. The venue is standing room only, which was problem #1 since, again, I was 8 months pregnant. When you’re short and slender like me, and your belly is about the size of a balloon that’s about to pop, sitting down is pretty much a necessity.

Maybe I’m being high-maintenance here, but I think they should have offered me a chair. For free. There are chairs in the V.I.P. section, but we would have had to spend another $50 just to sit in them, and the section doesn’t even offer a good view of the stage. It’s off to the left side of the room and blocked by multiple columns. Why anyone would pay $25 to get a worse view of a performance is beyond me … unless you’re 8 months pregnant and desperately need to sit down, because you feel like all of your body’s organs are going to slip out of your vagina at any moment.

(#sorrynotsorry for the mental picture…)

No, pregnancy is not a handicap. As someone who had a home birth, I firmly believe that, even though hospitals try to rush you to the maternity ward in a wheelchair like you can’t walk when you’re in labor. But standing room only for a 3-hour concert when your water could break at any moment? Not cool, Fillmore. Not cool.

My husband ordered one alcoholic beverage. Pretty sure he spent like $16 on it. $20 if you count the tip. I guess that’s typical for most concert venues, but still a major disappointment, especially when we had already overpaid for tickets to attend a concert where the performer was late to her own show and couldn’t even sit our asses down in a chair.

In short, my visit to the Fillmore made me never want to go there again, and I haven’t been there since. I hear not much has changed, but I could be wrong. In any case, it did not meet my expectations as being comparable to the Fillmore in L.A. which appears to be amazing. Maybe if I ever make it out to the west coast, I’ll buy tickets to a concert and write another review for what has come to be known as one of the highest-esteemed music venues in the entire U.S.

Until then, I’ll stick to concerts at The Evening Muse.

Macklemore

Hey Pop Stars: Quit Selling Out!

This post is a bit of a rant. (I’ve been on a lot of those lately.)

I was on a long road trip a few weeks ago and decided to give listening to the radio another try. I typically don’t listen to the radio, especially on long road trips, for a few reasons:

  1. Most radio music sucks.
  2. When you’re driving through multiple cities, you frequently have to change stations to get a good signal which is a pain.
  3. My iPhone has a pretty good stock of better music, which I would much rather listen to.
  4. I actually totaled my first car because I was changing the radio station after a horrible boy-band song came on…

Occasionally, though, I like to flip through radio stations just to see what’s out there lately. What’s gaining in popularity and if it indicates a positive trend toward better music in the near future. I’m a 90s kid, so I love 90s music and tend to believe that just about everything created after 1999 is total garbage. (I know, I’m biased.) But seriously, when was the last time you turned on a pop radio station and actually heard good song?

[crickets]

Yep. That’s what I thought.

I was hoping for some indication of positive news when I flipped the radio on, but unfortunately, nothing of the sort happened. Just as I figured, it’s still garbage, and it seems to be getting worse. I didn’t think that was possible, but that’s what I’m hearing, so… yeah.

I remember when Jewel sold out. As I was listening to the popular junk that’s out there today, it totally brought me back to 2003 when I first heard her hit song, “Intuition”. I remember thinking, “why, Jewel? whyyyyyyyy would you stoop this low?” From the neon-colored clothes on her album cover to the totally overproduced sound of the album, it was a far cry from “Pieces of You”, which I loved. What a complete and total disappointment.

Since then, some of my favorite artists have followed suit:

John Mayer with his country album. Dave Matthews Band with their electric rock record. And O.A.R. Similar to DMB, they also came out with a boring pop record full of electric instruments that took them so far away from their original acoustic jam-band sound, I could cry…

These artists have one thing in common. For at least one LP, they ceased to be what made them so likeable… They ceased to be themselves. All of the characteristics that made them unique were sucked up by the greedy music industry capitalists in an effort to make a profit.

Was it worth it? Hell no.

Please, please, please, for the sake of our future, our kids’ futures, and their kids’ futures, STOP SELLING OUT! It doesn’t matter if you’re an independent artist or you’re at the top of the Billboard charts—be YOU. Don’t ever stop being YOU. No matter what anyone tells you. No matter how many dollar bills they wave in your face. I’ve got mad respect for artists like Macklemore. He hustled his way to the top, but he hasn’t stopped being what makes him unique—he hasn’t stopped being himself. As crazy as his latest video is, it’s that craziness that drew so many people to him when he produced Thrift Shop, and we see the same craziness today. I hope it never stops.

Not all radio is bad. In fact, it was Macklemore’s latest single that kept me listening when I was on my road trip a few weeks ago.

All I’m saying is, if you’re going to be an artist, then be an artist. Not everyone is going to love you, and that’s okay. As long as you stay true to yourself, you’ll be successful.

If you’ve yet to hear Macklemore’s newest, check out the video below. Rant: over.

street musician

Why Spotify Has Ruined the Music Industry

Okay, okay. It wasn’t Spotify. That’s just the one I like to pick on.

It was really Napster that ruined things for everyone. Well, maybe not everyone. Definitely for talented, independent artists though. (Not that mainstream artists aren’t talented… they just have a tendency to hide their talents behind a facade they created when they sold out. And I don’t mean sold out of concert tickets.)

Some would say my point is arguable. That streaming services like Spotify are actually changing the game for independent artists and enabling them to have a “chance” at getting discovered. Hate to break it to you, indies. You have a better chance of getting discovered by trying out for American idol. Actually, I’d recommend making really stupid videos and posting them on YouTube if you really want to become a musical sensation. You ever see that movie The Rocker? I’ve contemplated singing naked on several occasions…

By the way, if you haven’t seen that movie, I highly recommend it. Hilarious.

Anyway, if you’re tech-savvy and know how to game the system, I suppose you could figure out how to get famous by publishing your tunes on Spotify. But for the average Joe independent artist who spends his time writing great music and refuses to spend it figuring out how to get noticed, it’s nigh impossible. As an indie on Spotify, you’re Nemo. A little clownfish with a gimpy fin, drowning in a sea of sharks.

Pardon the seemingly random analogy. Finding Nemo is my daughter’s most recent obsession. If you can’t tell, we watch a lot of movies at my house.

But I digress…

Spotify has ruined the music industry because it has made mainstream artists with big budgets and tons of fame even more famous. They’re getting all the attention and all the money while the independent artists continue to starve. Playing for pennies in cheap bars that creepy menfolk frequent often. Mainstream artists don’t need Spotify’s help. They’ve got it made. They’re signed to major record labels with huge amounts of cash and lots of pull with the right people. It’s only the super rich and the super famous who get noticed on streaming platforms. And because those people have massive followings, those streaming platforms actually pay them a pretty decent amount. Unlike independent artists who have tiny followings and make a fraction of a penny per play.

Spotify has ruined the music industry because you can pay $10 or $15 a month and listen to whatever you want, whenever you want, as often as you want. You don’t have to buy records anymore. Which means that artists who actually want to make a living must travel and tour in order to survive. That means they can’t be with their families. They’re constantly on the road living out of a suitcase, which I guess is fine if you’re single, but for someone like me, it pretty much squashes all dreams of becoming a musician. For an independent artist, this is especially daunting, because your average ticket sales won’t come close to that of major mainstream artists. Which means you’re spending months away from home just to make an average income.

What’s the solution to this problem? I don’t have one as of now. If you do, please feel free to leave a comment and share. Meanwhile, I’m off to drown my sorrows with another glass of red. Have a good night. 🙂

What’s Up With All the Musician Deaths Lately?

I was so sad when I heard David Bowie died a few weeks ago. I’ve had plenty of grieving time, and I’m still not over it. I think it’s safe to say the man was a musical legend. Hubs has been listening to his album in the car lately.

In case you haven’t been following the news, he died of cancer at the ripe young age of 69 after an 18-month battle, during which, no one knew he was even dying because he wanted “minimal fuss,” according to his longtime friend. I can understand that, but I must say, it totally hit me like a ton of bricks when I found out. After listening to his music for decades, I feel like he and I could have been the best of friends if I had known him.

Well, a week later, I find out Glenn Frey (guitarist for The Eagles) died too. He was only 67 (so young, right?) And he died of a health condition as well. Apparently he had intestinal issues.

This leads me to the question (and title of this post): what’s up with all the celebrity musician deaths lately? Two incredible men kick the bucket only a week apart, and they’re both around the same age. If I didn’t know any better, I’d start scouring the Internet for conspiracy theories. (An Illuminati sacrifice, perhaps?)

Relax, I’m kidding. Maybe… 😉

Anyway, I’m writing this post in an effort to help me grieve my losses. I’ve always been told that writing is a form of therapy, and the more I do it, the more I find out how true that is.

If you’re a musician, consider this fair warning: do everything you can to stay healthy. We don’t need anymore of you amazing artists dying from cancer or other health conditions. As a matter of fact, getting and staying healthy is one of my goals in 2016. Click here to read the rest of ’em.

‘Til next time…

Our Goals For 2016

2016 goals - the garage venue crew

Hi again! I mentioned in the last post that blogging more consistently was one of my goals for this year, and shortly after publishing, it dawned on me that it might be good to share the rest of our goals for the year. (When I say “we” and “our,” I’m referring to the entire crew that used to make up The Garage Venue staff and now comprises the community of managers that keeps this website up and running.)

We’re pretty excited about what this year holds. Even though we had to close our doors, we’re still a pretty tight-knit family and keep in touch quite often. Before 2015 ended, we all met for dinner and made a collective list of our top New Year’s Resolutions, and we thought it would be helpful to let your loyal website visitors tune in and hear (ahem… read) what they are. So, without further ado, here are some of the things that each of us (individually and as a team) would like to accomplish this year:

Goal 1: Get healthy. I know, I know. It’s the most popular New Year’s Resolution on the planet. But it’s a very necessary achievement, especially in the US where 80% of the population is overweight or obese). I, personally, have started seeing a Charlotte chiropractor to help me get my spine back into alignment after the car accident I suffered last year. On top of that, all of us have committed to a once-a-week dinner at one of our houses, where the host prepares a plant-based meal. Though I won’t allow myself to stop eating meat altogether (I love me some steak!), we all figured that one vegan meal a week would help us stay on track to eating better. We also do a community yoga outing one Saturday each month, led by yours truly. (You didn’t know I was a yogi, did you?) — 🙂

Goal 2: 1,200 new eyeballs on this website. 100 unique visitors a month isn’t an incredibly lofty goal. It’s actually very doable. You might think we’re lazy, but we wanted to set a reasonable goal that we could realistically achieve by the end of this year, so that’s how we came up with this number. None of us are online marketing experts by any means, and we’re not looking to profit off of this website. We honestly just want to build a genuine community of loyal, interested readers. So if we hit 1,200 new readers total by the end of this year, we’ll give ourselves a pat on the back. If we surpass that goal, we’ll buy ourselves a round of craft beers.

Goal 3: Attend at least one live show every month. Again, this isn’t too lofty a goal; we wanted to keep it reasonable and be realistic. Plus, here’s one thing that makes this a tad bit harder: it can’t be just any show; no popular artists allowed. In an effort to support local art, we’ve committed to attending at least one show that’s either an open mic or a music performance by an independent Charlotte artist each month. Given how crappy this city is at supporting local musicians, that cuts out a good chunk of the entertainment.

We only have 3 big goals on our list, and that was done on purpose. Anymore, and we feared we’d accomplish none of them. It’s best to keep your goals list short if you actually expect to achieve what you’ve set out to achieve. We’ll update you periodically on our progress throughout the year—probably once a quarter, so stay tuned!

3 Things to Look For in an Entertainment Venue

Hey y’all! (In good, Southern North Cackalacky fashion, I just had to say that.)

I know I haven’t posted in a quite some time, but life gets pretty busy when your blog is a hobby. It has to take a backseat to making a living, and ever since we had to close the doors of The Garage Venue, I’ve had to find other ways to make some cash.

But, I’m back now, and I have a goal to post more regularly (at least once a month) in 2016. Hey, quality over quantity, right? I may even post twice this month as a special treat to all those who have been waiting so patiently to get the scoop.

This post was inspired by a conversation I had with a friend of mine the other night. She was telling me how she went to a concert at the Fillmore at NC Music Factory when she was 8 months pregnant and how she’ll never go back. As much as I’d like to hit her upside the head and say, “well of course you had a bad experience; you were 8 months pregnant,” I kind of can’t help but agree with her. I’m not a big fan of that venue either. I think it’s overhyped because of its name and subsequent association with the legendary Fillmore in California. (Now, that place is a different story.)

Our version of the Fillmore is not only overhyped. It’s overpriced, unaccommodating, and pitiful compared to its predecessor.

So what makes an entertainment venue a good spot to hear live music or watch a performance? Several criteria immediately come to my mind, and I’d like to think we did a good job with every single item on this list.

#1: A versatile layout. As I mentioned before, the Fillmore was highly unaccommodating to my friend, especially considering her body’s condition during her visit. When you’re 8 months pregnant, standing-room only just ain’t gonna cut it. And forcing her to pay $25 extra for a “VIP” seat that’s far left of the stage and doesn’t even provide a “VIP” viewing experience? Pffft. Not cool guys. Not cool.

When it comes to your layout, you want to be accommodating to many different types of people, as well as different types of entertainment scenarios. Having a large standing-room area that can double as a sitting-room for more upscale events where you want to serve food and drinks alongside the entertainment will open a lot more doors for you in the long-run.

#2: Reasonable pricing. I really wish venues in this city (and every other big city for that matter) would quit charging outrageous prices for cheap beer. I’m sorry, but I’ll pass on the $8 pint of piss-colored water (a.k.a. Bud Light). No thank you. And $75 for a ticket to a concert where the opening act is a crappy DJ and the headliner hits the stage an hour late? (Not naming any names here… I’ll leave it to you to guess who she went to see). Um… Big FAT NO again. If you want people to enjoy an experience at your venue and come back for more, be reasonable. That’s one of the things we prided ourselves on at The Garage Venue. We charged a normal amount for local craft beer on tap and provided food to our guests on some occasions. We also housed a variety of different artists, both independent and big-label. Which brings me to #3…

#3: Support local artists! For crying out loud, why is it that most GOOD musicians in Charlotte feel the need to move to Austin or New York to get a break? There is more competition in both of those cities, yet our most solid performers are flocking there because they can’t even get a gig at The Evening Muse. If you are a local venue, consider supporting more local art. I know it can be harder for independent musicians to bring people in the door, but if you’re a good venue, you should be able to carry some of that weight. Don’t put it all on these poor starving artists who are struggling just to make a living off of their art because the music industry sucks these days.

That’s all I have, folks… what about you? are your thoughts on the local Charlotte music scene? If we were to build another entertainment venue, what would you like to see? Or if you’re not local to the area, we’d love to hear your opinions on the music scene where you live!

Why We Closed Our Doors

As you may have read on our Welcome page, we had to close our doors at the end of last year. We never gave our patrons an explanation, and we feel we owe you at least that, so we’re using this post to sum up why we went out of business.

Truth be told, there was really no way to stay open if we were going to hold fast to our values, at least not in the city of Charlotte. In this area, it’s really hard to open and sustain a thriving entertainment venue, due to a number of factors, which we’ll cover shortly. We had a dream to beat the odds and stay open, regardless of this city’s reputation, but—alas—we could sustain ourselves no longer.

Even though we’re not up and running anymore, we still have a passion for good music, and we define “good” as that which holds fast to its own standards of originality, regardless of what everyone else says. In other words, if you stand for something and make that clear through your lyrics, melodies, chord changes and instrumentation, and you don’t allow your peers, your producer or your record company to convince you that “selling out” is the answer, then we’d say you’re a “good” artist.

We were a “good” music venue by our own standards. We held on to our beliefs and values, even when it made life harder. Unfortunately, that’s what ultimately led to our downfall, but I, for one, don’t regret a single second.

What exactly are those beliefs and values, you ask? I’ll tell you.

We believe in creating a haven for local, independent artists to thrive. We wanted to build a venue that didn’t turn away local talent. There’s so much of it here, and other venues in the area reject it, except on open mic night or nights during the week when the foot traffic is low. If you’re a local artist trying to get a decent gig in Charlotte, you can forget about it. Not gonna happen unless you have a huge following. That’s just the way the city thrives. If you don’t have enough followers, you won’t bring enough traffic to the venue, which means fewer people paying to get in and fewer people buying drinks. In turn, the venue loses money. And it’s all about the money here. We’re one of the biggest banking capitals in the nation, after all…

We believe in the appreciation of original craft. Basically, this meant that we didn’t allow the over-consumption of alcohol on our premises. We didn’t serve liquor; we only served craft beer, which is designed to be appreciated and not consumed quickly or in large quantities. And when we noticed our patrons getting a bit tipsy, we cut them off and called them a cab. Some nights, this resulted in curses that flew in every direction and ultimately landed right in our faces. But we didn’t care. Our loyal patrons were not there to get drunk and dance to cover songs. They were there to appreciate original art while enjoying a few finely crafted beverages. Which brings us to #3…

We believe in loyalty. Loyalty often requires exclusivity. We didn’t make it easy for a lot of people to get into our venue. Though it was a relatively large establishment, we kept the number of seats available to a minimum and didn’t allow for shows that were standing-room only. This is vastly different from the way most entertainment venues are run, and as you’re reading this, I’m sure you’re saying “no wonder they closed down.” Our ticket prices were higher than most establishments, though, and we marketed the hell out of every show. It was part of our strategy to help local, independent artists with small followings thrive. We weren’t sure if it would work, and to our surprise, it did seem to for a while. But long-term, it just wasn’t sustainable.

These are the primary reasons why we ended up closing our doors. Add that to the amount of space renovations that were necessary for us to even get up and running – a new roof, new flooring, new ceilings and walls to allow for better sound acoustics – and we up to our eyeballs in debt.

But we’re still very much alive in spirit, and our passion lives on through every post we publish on this site. So we hope you’ll come back and keep reading as we continue to tell the story of music in Charlotte, North Carolina.

‘Til next time…

Ginger (a.k.a. the red-headed stepchild)

Charlotte’s Obsession With Heavy Metal

There’s so much talent in Charlotte that goes unnoticed. It’s a real shame.

We used to go to local concerts pretty often, and we saw so many great local musicians here at venues like The Evening Muse and even some small-time bars like Hef’s. Our favorite people keep moving to places like New York, Nashville and Austin TX, where the music scene is thriving and independent artists are supported. The unfortunate thing about places like that is there is so much independent art going around that you’re just another small fish in a big pond.

Which is why I hate that Charlotte musicians don’t get more support! There’s so much undiscovered talent. And the ones who do get discovered get lucky because they know someone who knows someone else in a bigger city.

Oh, but wait. There is one way to get discovered here. Become a metal head.

I got nothin’ against heavy metal, if it’s good heavy metal. Now, to be perfectly honest, I don’t really listen to it, but there’s some good grungy stuff out there that’s eclectic enough for my taste and not so screamo that I have to leave the room to hear my brain talk to itself again…

I used to be in an indie pop-rock group and we rented rehearsal space at the Playroom on Tuckaseegee Rd. God only knows why we picked that spot. I think it’s because we desperately needed somewhere to practice and record our music, and in this city it’s slim pickins’ unless you’re willing to pay a small fortune. As a garage band, we didn’t have much money to spend.

Our first week in, I wanted to leave. There we were in our practice room trying to record our cheesy pop music, and it was virtually impossible because of the metal band next door. I wouldn’t have minded it so much if their music was good. But when all you can hear are screaming vocals and the same chord changes being slammed over and over again, and all you can imagine is the long-haired dude killing 2000 brain cells a second because his head is banging so hard, it’s really difficult to not want to scream your head off too.

In short, I really just don’t get Charlotte’s obsession with heavy metal bands. The venues here will support them all day long. And cover bands too. Anything original with a good melody and substantive lyrics that you can understand and relate to seems to get the boot.

I’m not sure if it’s that metal bands and cover bands bring in a lot of listeners, and that helps pay the bills for every bar in town. Or maybe it’s just that no one likes to listen to good music. But this town has a horrible obsession with tunes that make you go deaf—and like it.

Before we had to close our doors, we welcomed a few metal bands, but they were easy on the ears. Their songs had detectable melodies and meaningful lyrics. They were small-time. I’m actually not even sure if they’re still playing together. (That’s another thing about metal bands: they tend to break up a lot).

I’d like to give metal a chance, but I’m waiting to hear some awesome tunes. Anyone reading this – can you give us a few recommendations? We’d love to feature the good apples here on garagevenue.com!

Who are some of your favorite metal bands and why? (They don’t have to be local to Charlotte, NC – just good.) Comment below with any that you’d like to see reviewed on here, and we’ll do our best to take a listen. 🙂

As always, thanks for listening to us. ‘Til next time…

5 Ways To Find Free & Cheap Concert Parking in Charlotte, NC

downtown parking

Parking in Charlotte during a concert can be hell. If you don’t arrive early enough, you can spend hours looking for a decent spot. Unless you have VIP tickets and can drive straight to the venue’s front entrance, you usually have to factor parking spot hunting into your agenda.

And you’ve gotta be careful, because a lot of places will not let you park your car in their lot. You can’t just drive up to a building with an empty lot next to the venue and park your car there all night. If you park in an unauthorized space, you’re likely to get towed. And then you’re stuck trying to figure out how you can get your vehicle back from the towing company that took it.

There are some workarounds though. Finding a free or cheap spot near a concert venue doesn’t have to be hard. In fact, it’s pretty easy with these 5 tips.

1. Go out to eat first. If you’re going to a concert in uptown Charlotte, a lot of the restaurants in the area will validate your parking ticket. Go out to eat and park in the restaurant’s parking lot or deck. Make sure you get your parking ticket validated by the hostess. When the concert is over, all you have to do is show your validated ticket to the parking attendant.

2. Park at a friend’s house near the venue and walk. If you know someone who lives near the concert venue, arrange to pregame at their place. Then you can walk to the concert and get there just in time to see the opening act.

3. Take the light rail. This works out great if the concert is somewhere in SouthEnd, near the light rail station. You can park your car there and take the light rail to the venue.

4. Take the bus. If you live near a bus stop, this means you won’t have to worry about parking at all.

5. Ride-share. Ride-sharing companies like Lyft and Uber offer affordable transportation solutions. Arrange a ride with a group of friends and split the fare between everyone. It’s not free, but it is a cheap way to get to and from a concert. And if no one’s driving, then no one has to worry about drinking.

There you have it. Five easy ways to keep your transportation costs low when going to a concert in the queen city.

The Best Indie Music Venues in Charlotte

Charlotte, North Carolina has a few good music venues for independent artists. Ever since the NoDa arts district came onto the scene, artists have seen a lot more opportunities to showcase their talents. This post highlights a few of our favorite spots in town.

evening-muse

1. The Evening Muse. This is a great intimate venue for small-time artists who are looking to break through the Charlotte music scene. You could pack a crowd of about 100 people, standing room only. I’ve seen a few bands play here, and it’s always an awesome experience. If you want an up close and personal experience, where you can see beads of sweat dripping from the drummer’s face, this is it.

2. Visulite Theater. Another great intimate venue, but significantly larger than The Evening Muse. A few years ago, we took a limousine to the Visulite to see a local band play and it was an awesome time.

3. The Neighborhood Theater. Once again, a NoDa favorite. What I love about the Neighborhood Theater is that the acoustics are amazing, no matter where you’re sitting. A few years ago a group of us went to see some folk artists take the stage. We started the night front and center, right near the stage, and we ended it in the back upper level area. Everything sounded phenomenal from both spots.

These are all great venues, and they all happen to be located in North Davidson. Not surprising, given the growth the area has experienced in recent years.

If you’re ever in the Charlotte area and going to a concert in NoDa, we highly recommend you start your night at one of the bars in the area. Revolution Pizza has an amazing selection of craft beers. Have a drink or two while waiting for a table to open up at Cabo Fish Taco, and then enjoy some Tavaru Tuna Tacos and jalopeno mashers before you finish the night at the music venue of your choice.

NoDa can be especially hard to navigate on the weekends, as parking is limited. If you have the budget for it, definitely rent a limo or party bus, and it’ll be much easier to get around.

Are there any venues you should stay away from? I don’t normally like to criticize, but I did have a less-than-favorable experience at the Fillmore, when going to see Lauryn Hill. Surprising, since the Fillmore in LA is so reputable. But for me, it was overpriced, and seating was limited to a VIP area that was all the way to the left of the stage – not worth paying the extra $25 just to get a chair. (It didn’t help that I was 8 months pregnant at the time, either.)

In short, if you’re going to see an independent or smaller-time artist in the Charlotte area, try to stick to the NoDa area. All of the venues are nice.