Nightlife in Durham
Durham's nightlife has exploded in the last few years. The former industrial area to the north of downtown by the old Durham Bulls ballpark has gone from car dealerships and repair shops to live music clubs, bars and breweries. Motorco Music Hall at 723 Rigsbee Ave is a 500 capacity rock club with live music almost every night. Across the street is the award winning Full Steam Brewery, run by Sean Wilson and Chris Davis, who are successfully carrying out their vision "to pioneer a Southern Beer Economy,
directly supporting local farms, agricultural entrepreneurs, and local beer-related businesses." The brewery has a number of popular year-round beers like their Southern Lager, and Working Man's Lunch as well as seasonal specials like HOGWASH Hickory-smoked Brown Porter, SUMMER BASIL farmhouse ale. The bar at the brewery has their beer on tap of course, beer tasting events and is a popular stop for the Durham food trucks which compensate for the lack of a restaurant. They also have live music from time
to time but most people come to taste the beer and to talk. The Surf Club at 703 Rigsbee Ave is a good place to go for a drink before a show at Motorco or after a lot of beers at Full Steam for those young enough to keep the night going by increasing your alcohol content.
Beyu Caffe at 335 West Main Street is a combination coffee
shop, restaurant, bar, and live music venue and the vision of owner Dorian “DJ” Bolden(photo) former Duke Grad and financial advisor and current jazz lover. They feature live jazz artists including Grammy Award winners, Branford Marsalis, Roy Hargrove, and John Brown and Grammy Nominated artists such as Caroline Malachi and Nina Freelon as
well as other well-known local artists. Casbah is located at 1007 West Main Street, in the Brightleaf Square District and is a private club with live music and other events. A lifetime membership is $3, a price most people can afford for good music and booze. Pinhook at 117 Main St, is one of the top clubs for live music, dance parties, and creative events and is also a neighborhood bar so there does not have to be anything happening for you to go and just hang out. Whiskey at 347 W Main
St is the kind of place transtioning adults love, leather chairs, martinis, dimly lit wood interior, leather couches and cigars from the humidor at the main bar. Non-smokers may want to go down the street to Mateo and drink wine and eat tapas while they wait for their pals who are seduced by the allure of Whiskey. Then again they
may decide they don't mind cigar smoke if it is in the right environment. Other bars which may or may not have live music include the James Joyce Pub, which as you might guess is an Irish Pub at 912 West Main Street across from Brightleaf Square. Tyler's Beer Hall at the American Tobacco Warehouse is a massive bar with lots of choices of beer and a festive atmosphere on weekend nights. Most people will be eating but they don't mind if you aren't. On the Duke campus, the Duke Coffeehouse has a couple shows on the weekends, when what is usually a place where students go to study and drink coffee becomes a live venue for local and touring musicians, plays, open mics, student performances, and the occasional drag show.
On the site of South Square Mall they have built a giant Target and the whole area has the look of a giant city made up only of shopping centers and discount department stores. But tucked away
on the service road that borders 15/501 Business, a couple doors down from Spartacus Restaurant is the Blue Note Grill, your friendly neighborhood ribs and burgers bar and grill that has brought in some really terrific blues bands. It is an intimate setting for hearing some very professional bands and people even get up and dance. Lots of micro beer choices, many of them
local, and I can vouch for the baby-back ribs and the pulled pork as well as the shrimp-stuffed jalapeno poppers. They have open blues jams on Tuesday, and live blues and traditional rock bands Weds through Saturday. I saw JW Jones here and they were the best blues band I have seen since the Nighthawks, twenty years ago. The grill is owned by Andrea & Bill Whittington who both cook there and is located at Boulevard Plaza Shopping Center aka 4125 Durham-Chapel Hill Boulevard. This is the kind of place
you really have to go out and support.
For big-time shows in Durham there is no better place to see and hear music than the Durham Performing Arts Center, better known as DPAC. Specifically designed to present the biggest shows on tour, DPAC puts you
close to the stage and allows you to experience live performances with spectacular sight lines (not a bad seat in the house) and a great sound system and acoustics. With plenty of parking in the area and loads of restaurants and bars nearby to visit before and after the show, I can't imagine a better place to see a concert and in the past few years the DPAC stage has been graced by Leonard Cohen, Joe Bonamassa, Ian Anderson, Al Green, Crosby, Stills and Nash without Neil Young, Neil Young without Crosby,
Stills and Nash, Jackson Brown, ZZ Top, David Sideris, Willy Nelson, Tony Bennett, Jerry Seinfeld, Ringo Starr and His All Starr Band, Lyle Lovett and His Large Band, The Temptations & The Four Tops, Buddy Guy, Yanni (Yes. that Yanni), Steve Martin with The Steep Canyon Rangers, and numerous traveling Broadway musicals and shows like Jersey Boys, Hair, Stephanie Miller - Sexy Liberal Comedy and Durham's own American Dance Festival.
If it is not at DPAC chances are it is at the historic Carolina Theater in downtown Durham. "Dedicated to presenting vibrant, thought-provoking
film and live performances that contribute to the cultural and economic vitality of downtown Durham and the Triangle Region", the Carolina which has been open for 85 years and counting, plays host to a number of area film festivals such as the Full Frame Documentary Festival, the Nevermore Film Festival( horror and Gothic), North Carolina Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, and Retrofantasma, a monthly film series of double-features dedicated to bringing classic horror movies back to the big screen in 35mm.
The Carolina also plays hosts to big time acts like Hugh Masekela, Boz Scaggs, Hot Tuna, Laurie Anderson, the
Manhattans, John Mayall's Bluesbreakers, The
Spanish Harlem Orchestra , Ladysmith Black
Mambazo, Durham native and Grammy winner Nnenna
Freelon, and is home to Durham Savoyards Theater group and many events put on by Duke Performances. Like DPAC the Carolina is close to restaurants and bars and other live music venues.