North Georgia’s Music Towns

Written By: Kathy Nolan

My life has a soundtrack. I sincerely believe that every activity can be elevated and enhanced with the right background music. Every story ever told would be so much more compelling if the narrator holds a guitar that is well-worn when he’s feeling forlorn in front of a microphone. If you are looking for a blues joint to shed a tear in your beer or a retro bar to celebrate a significant occasion, check out this list of authentic music venues, laid back listening rooms, outdoor festivals and nostalgic watering holes. Bring a lawn chair, reserve a table or find a barstool in North Georgia for a dance beneath the disco ball or under the moonlight. Here we explore four North Georgia towns well known for live music events and fabulous concert venues: Alpharetta, Athens, Dahlonega and Woodstock. Rock on!  

Experience the lively beat of Alpharetta, a city with a distinctive musical character. Immerse yourself in an array of experiences featuring live performances, festivals, and a vibrant local music scene. From intimate indoor settings to outdoor concerts, Alpharetta’s musical rhythm invites exploration. The rich musical tapestry of Alpharetta has something for everyone, from outdoor enthusiasts to jazz connoisseurs and those seeking a more intimate acoustic experience. 

Alpharetta Symphony
Alpharetta’s home orchestra provides the city, and all of North Fulton, with performances of incredible classical music, right in your backyard! From music of the Baroque era to music by modern-day composers and popular music that will leave you humming, the Alpharetta Symphony has you covered. The Symphony serves the city of Alpharetta through engaging educational programs and collaborations with other area arts organizations.

Ameris Bank Amphitheatre
Featuring the biggest names in country, rock and contemporary hits from April to October, the Ameris Bank Amphitheatre provides a captivating setting for music lovers to experience unforgettable performances beneath the stars. With a seating capacity of 12,000, this state-of-the-art venue promises an unparalleled experience, thanks to its amazing acoustics. Whether you’re in the front row or enjoying the park-like lawn seats, every spot in the house ensures an incredible view. 

City Eats Kitchen
This culinary haven pairs delectable dining with live musical performances, offering a unique fusion of gastronomy and melody. Guests savor delicious cuisine while enjoying the rhythmic tunes of talented local musicians in a dynamic setting. 

Matilda’s Music Under the Pines
Technically it’s in nearby Milton, but it too cool of place not to make the list. Every town wishes they had a place back home like Waltzing Matilda’s. Bring your own food and beverages and have a picnic. Or just listen to the music. Some folks take a complete set-up, along with candles and tablecloth, and others grab a bottle of wine and run out the door. The variety of live music is awesome, but the experience of sitting under the moonlight and pine trees while listening to the music (and dancing!) is what really makes this place special. 

The Plaza at Avalon
Surrounded by upscale shops and eateries, this open-air space transforms into a public stage for diverse talent. From indie bands to acoustic soloists, The Plaza at Avalon features a stylish setting where visitors can immerse themselves in the rhythm of Alpharetta’s vibrant music scene. Relax and unwind every Friday from April through October at Avalon Nights Live, a free concert series.  

Roaring Social
Alpharetta’s Roaring Social has a secret entrance to hidden treasures within. The hip hideaway creates an exciting, unforgettable experience in an unmatched, opulent setting. The RoSo Clothier facade offers guests (with the right secret password) entry into a nostalgic dream. Upscale cuisine and craft cocktails are available for adults only in this swanky speakeasy. Roaring Social transcends the typical speakeasy experience by curating a lineup of talented performers who grace the stage with diverse genres and captivating melodies. Whether it’s the evocative strains of jazz or the electrifying energy of contemporary tunes, the live music at Roaring Social transforms the space into a haven for music enthusiasts.

The Velvet Note
Renowned for its dedication to jazz and soul, The Velvet Note is an upscale, intimate jazz club that provides an exceptional listening experience. With world-class performers and a sophisticated ambiance, it’s the perfect spot for those seeking refined musical enjoyment in Alpharetta.

Mark Your Calendar
Eclectic Lawn Concert Series
The Alpharetta Arts Center stands as a vibrant cultural hub, fostering creativity and artistic expression. This dynamic venue plays host to a variety of musical events, encompassing classical performances, contemporary concerts, and showcases by local musicians. Embrace the summer vibes at the Eclectic Lawn Concert Series by bringing your chairs, picnics, and family. These free monthly concerts occur on the 2nd Friday of each month from June to August, offering a variety of performances spanning funk, Latin, jazz, and reggae. 

Home by Dark Series
The Home by Dark Music Series offers free music on select Saturdays throughout the warmer months. Brooke Street Park provides a captivating backdrop for an unforgettable live music experience. From soothing acoustic tunes to invigorating beats that beckon you to dance, Brooke Street Park’s live music events cater to all musical tastes, making it a must-see destination for outdoor music enthusiasts.

Wire & Wood Alpharetta Songwriters Festival
Alpharetta’s Town Green stands as a dynamic community hub, pulsating with the heartbeat of the town as it hosts the Wire & Wood Alpharetta Songwriters Festival Oct. 11 – 12. This lively space, surrounded by shops and restaurants, transforms into an open-air stage, where residents and visitors alike converge for unforgettable musical experiences.

Worth the Drive
Everett’s Music Barn
Just a few towns over, Everett’s Music Barn in Suwanee is a pass-the-hat, alcohol-free hoedown located on the family’s property in Suwanee. It opens every Saturday night at 8 p.m. with the Everett Family Band and continues with national bluegrass acts and/or open-mic jam sessions. It’s hard to imagine a cooler, more unique way to spend a weekend evening. 

See why shiny happy people love the Athens live music scene. R.E.M., The B-52s, Drive-By Truckers, and Widespread Panic have gone on to achieve international acclaim after creating the Athens sound. The iconic musical legacy still attracts musicians seeking inspiration and music lovers just looking for a great show in a classic venue. From summer music festivals to traditional bouzouki clubs, cozy jazz bars to nostalgic venues, Athens still champions local indie bands in the hip college town.

40 Watt Club
Legendary for its sweat-soaked late-night downtown shows, the 40 Watt has been the innovative and unconventional music scene’s Ground Zero for three decades. Recently, the club held two epic “prom” nights, with My Morning Jacket as the white-suited, faux-pompadoured house band. The club introduced the world to R.E.M., Vic Chesnutt, Neutral Milk Hotel, The Olivia Tremor Control, Drive-By Truckers and Of Montreal. 

Georgia Theatre
The Georgia Theatre was proudly reborn after a devastating fire in 2009. Now the historic venue is known for showcasing established local acts and touring bands, including The Police, B.B. King and Dave Matthews. Despite its large size, the venue has an intimate vibe and, some say, the best sound in Athens. It’s newest addition, a rooftop bar, is the perfect place to grab an afternoon beer or cocktail, meet up with friends, and watch the sunset over downtown.

The Classic Center
This award-winning convention center and performing arts center is located in the heart of downtown Athens, and the theater seats 2,122 music lovers for a raucous by intimate performance. Check out Bob Dylan’s Rough and Rowdy Ways Tour March 14-15 and Bonnie Raitt on May 11th or enjoy the original musical “On Your Feet: The Story of Emilio and Gloria Estefan” on April 1. 

A Bite of Music History
Weaver D’s Fine Foods serves up soul food under the slogan “Automatic for the People,” the inspiration for the title of R.E.M.’s 1992 album. Out of the underground and into the arena. In 2007, R.E.M. was inducted to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and Eddie Vedder said “…the indie band’s arrival marked the beginning of alternative rock. They’re strange, poetic, guarded and we wouldn’t have it any other way.” 

Mark Your Calendar
Downtown Athfest
Downtown Athens transforms into a citywide music festival as AthFest returns June 21 – 23. The city’s streets are lined with restored historic buildings housing an eclectic collection of boutiques, galleries, restaurants and cafes, in addition to performance spaces. Music fans can spend hours browsing through vintage collections at Low Yo Yo Stuff Records and Wuxtry Records. AthFest invites over 175 bands to perform an eclectic variety of musical styles night and day on indoor and outdoor stages. Music fans from all genres enjoy this renowned music scene and artists’ market which attracts over 20,000 fans each June. Take music tours, see Broadway musicals, and rising stars in Athens. 

Dahlonega is a perfectly charming mountain with an authentic square and small-town hospitality. The historic gold-mining town is also rich in cultural arts and culinary options. Restaurants, vineyards, attractions and festivals provide loads of live entertainment for every music lover of any age. 

Canopy + the Roots
Inspired by a giant tree that gives out giant hugs, Canopy + the Roots connects audience and artists in a lush, underground listening room. Costa Rican coffee is always poured hot in the social house, encouraging guests to pull up a chair and stay awhile. This charming coffee house and yoga studio offers musical performances, spoken word, and sketch comedy nights in a chill and relaxing atmosphere. Enjoy everything from jazz to blues to soul-folk to indie-pop at this intimate and eclectic venue that supports the local budding music scene. Their pristine and acoustically designed listening room ensures the music you hear is pure, without background noise or distractions. 

The Historic Holly Theatre
Home of live concerts, musicals and Broadway-style shows, this historic theater attracts headline talent and numerous tribute-style performances. This theater also includes family-friendly concerts on their list of events, so there’s something for the kids to enjoy, too. 

Live Music at Wineries & Vineyards
Music and wine make the perfect pairing. Several Dahlonega wineries offer live music with special wine dinners, events, and annual wine festivals. Check event calendars for performances at Cavender Creek Vineyards and Winery, Etowah Meadery, Frogtown Cellars, Montaluce Winery & Estates, Three Sisters Vineyards & Winery and Wolf Mountain Vineyards. 

Mark Your Calendar
Appalachian Jams
North Georgia’s mountain music pickers, singers and listeners flock to the Dahlonega Gold Museum State Historic Site for the Dahlonega Appalachian Jams on Saturday afternoons from April to October. The Appalachian Jam gives traditional mountain music players the chance to get together and celebrate the kind of music that has been performed in the Appalachian Mountains for generations. Musicians are invited to bring their instruments and gather on the historic Public Square to jam. Everyone else gathers to listen or dance. 

Bear on the Square Festival
If bluegrass or old-time music is your favorite, you won’t want to miss this hugely popular festival taking place April 20 – 21. The festival offers a full schedule of free concerts by popular bluegrass musicians and pays homage to Appalachian life with story-telling, entertainers and a collection of highly acclaimed artists selling their wares. 

First Friday Concerts
The Music in the Park series showcases the diversity of local musicians monthly. Bring a picnic supper to Hancock Park (located one block north of the Square) and spend some time with your family and friends. This free series runs May through October.

Woodstock is home to an energetic live music scene with creative venues featuring original musicians and tribute bands. The charming town is also home to NBC’s The Voice Season 22 winner, Bryce Leatherwood, who performed for his biggest fans during the Woodstock Summer concert series last year on the Northside Hospital-Cherokee Amphitheater located downtown.  Leatherwood is a guitarist and singer-songwriter inspired by traditional country artists George Jones, Merle Haggard, and Conway Twitty, and he’s just one of many musical treats in this town. 

The Listening Room at Rootstock
In a space that shines the spotlight on both local and out-of-town artists, The Listening Room at Rootstock is provides powerful musical experiences. The upper level of the popular Rootstock restaurant in Downtown Woodstock was designed specifically for high quality sound and lighting for its intimate concert series, with events taking place most weekends. The Listening Room offers a full bar or pair your concert with dinner in the restaurant. A bonus for all restaurant patrons: music from The Listening Room can be heard throughout. 

Madlife Stage & Studios
Before you have a midlife crisis, just go mad with a Madlife musical experience. The Madlife Grill on Main Street provides sustenance to aspiring musicians, touring acts and devoted fans. Weather permitting, lounge and listen to music on the patio stage. For the main event, Madlife’s main stage is a concert quality venue, accommodating up to 284 patrons for live performances. Tickets for concerts and comedy events can be purchased online or at the box office. Professional onsite recording studios feature two large tracking rooms and a state-of-the-art post-production and mixing suite. Test out your tunes during weekly open mic nights or suit up for the monthly battle of the bands. 

The Place
Even amateurs have a stage at The Place Bar and Grill. Release your inner rockstar at karaoke hosted every Thursday from 9 p.m. until midnight. Come out, bring your friends, and sing your favorite songs in front of a massive TV Wall. 


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