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Carrboro Music Festival provides accessible, 'magical' experience

Boom Unit Brass Band performed at Weaver Street Market as a part of the Carrboro Music Festival in Carrboro, N.C. on Sunday, October 1, 2023.

Venues, sidewalks and streets overflowed with audiences on Sunday for the 26th annual Carrboro Music Festival, which showcased diverse, local acts at 18 locations across town.

The festival has experienced some setbacks in recent years. It was virtual in 2020 and canceled in 2021. Last year, it returned to in-person venues, but in a limited capacity because of inclement weather. 

With no clouds in sight, this year’s lineup featured 100 local acts, spanning a variety of genres.

It kicked off on Saturday night, with a free ticketed performance by Truth Club at Cat’s Cradle, but the festival officially began on Sunday. 

Starting at 1 p.m., music could be heard from every corner of downtown Carrboro. Shows began at Armadillo Grill, Weaver Street Market and the Carrboro Town Commons. The doors opened to the Cat’s Cradle Back Room for a hip-hop showcase hosted by Skyblew that lasted from 2-10 p.m.

An app was available to attendees featuring a compiled list of artists and venues, as well as a master schedule showing live performances and their locations.

Shows had staggered starts at each venue and each lasted 45 minutes to an hour, so attendees had no shortage of performances to choose from. 

“That’s why I love the Carrboro Music Festival, because there’s such a wide range,” Jody Forehand, an attendee of the Boom Unit Brass Band performance at Weaver Street Market, said. “They’ve got brass bands, indie rock, world music, klezmer – a little bit of everything. Just fantastic.”

A full audience packed into the ArtsCenter’s brand new performance space to hear Eric Sommer and The Fabulous Piedmonts fill the room with their Americana sound, characterized by electric guitar riffs and a bluesy bass. 

He has been making music for decades, but this was his first year performing at the Carrboro Music Festival. This was also the first year that artists were offered financial compensation, a $250 honorarium, for their performances.

“What that says is that the Town of Carrboro really values what they have here,” he said.

He said he appreciated the turnout and the opportunity it provides the local community, both for the economy and for local music.

“It was just a wonderful coming together of North Carolina music,” he said. “It was great. I hope they’ll continue and I hope people will support this really good effort by the city.” 

Weaver Street was blocked off for much of the day, making for quick and safe pedestrian commutes from Lanza’s Cafe at one end of the venues, to 401 Main at the other.

The Town of Carrboro also provided a bus for the event that ran from 12-9 p.m. and shuttled passengers between the Jones Ferry Park & Ride lot and the event venues.

At several of the venues, attendees were met with promotions and activities beyond music to enjoy. 

This year’s festival introduced free workshops at the Century Center, Town Hall and the Civic Club. Those who registered were able to learn about the recording process, drumming basics and even the fundamentals of the accordion.

Local artisans and food trucks set up shop around the Town Commons while local organizations registered visitors to vote.

Fifth Season Gardening Company, one of the event venues, handed out free “grow your own gift” seed kits. Their co-owner, Sean Kinder, said that the business has been involved in the Carrboro Music Festival in the past and was eager to be involved in the local community through this year's event. 

“It's about keeping it local, giving back to the community, making Carrboro feel as intimate and as cool as it is,” he said.

As the sun set over Fifth Season, the store’s final performance of the night took the stage, a local Americana roots group, Nantahala, named after the river where the band’s two vocalists first met in college.

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The vocalists and long-time friends, Mary Johnson Rockers and Miriam Chicurel-Bayard, said that they appreciate the initiative of a small town such as Carrboro to provide accessible, quality music to the community.

“Sharing that experience together under the open sky and being able to walk in between bands without having to get in your car to go anywhere is pretty magical,” Johnson Rockers said.

Art enthusiasts in Carrboro will have more opportunities to attend festivals throughout the fall, with the West End Poetry Festival scheduled from Oct. 19-21 and the Carrboro Film Fest scheduled from Nov. 17-19.


@dthlifestyle |