The Virginia music scene is as vibrant as anywhere else in the country, with its fair share of venues large and small. Between state of the art amphitheaters and smaller repurposed venues that now host live music, Virginia’s sound is loud and varied. Check out these 10 venues across the state.
The Veterans United Home Loans Amphitheater, or just “The Amphitheater” as the locals call it, is a 20,000-seat outdoor concert venue. The amphitheater hosts music festivals all year, including Warped Tour, Ozzfest, and Projekt Revolution. If you’re looking for top-notch (and top dollar) musical acts, including the likes of Bruce Springsteen and Aerosmith, then this is your go-to destination.
The Tally Ho Theatre in Leesburg, Virginia, just under four hours north of The Amphitheater, is one of the most historic music venues in the state. The two venues couldn’t be more different: whereas the amphitheater is equipped with the latest concert equipment and hosts acts like Britney Spears, the Tally Ho began life in 1932 as a one room movie house. Renovated in 2012, it now hosts live bands in the same space. Go to the amphitheater for spectacle, come here for intimacy.
Peabody’s is a proving ground for many up-and-coming musical acts, and a favorite among Hampton Roads locals. The stage is only slightly elevated, which makes for an incredibly close experience. Huddled together under the hot lights with a band playing their hearts out-it doesn’t get much better.
I can’t tell you how many musical acts I first saw at Peabody’s graduate to The NorVa in Norfolk, Virginia. The NorVa has undergone many historic transformations since its original purpose as a vaudeville theater. But today it features incredible acoustics, brilliant lighting, and some of the most popular and wide-ranging acts in music today.
The NorVa’s spiritual sister, The National in Richmond also began life in the early 1900s as a vaudevillian theater before being converted into a movie theater. Restored in 2008, the wooden floors, brick walls, and seven full bars nod at its vaudeville roots. It’s both modern, with the third installed state-of-the-art V-DOSC sound system on the East Coast, and historical. For bigger acts in the Richmond area, you can’t go wrong with The National.
Quote-unquote “popular” music not your thing? Prefer your bands to be unheard of, except by those who really appreciate the underground scene? Then Strange Matter in downtown Richmond is the National alternative. This eclectic restaurant has funky-cool décor and paintings on the walls, retro video games, and live music, courtesy of the area’s hippest groups. Buy your tickets in advance. It’s definitely a little strange… but in a good way.
The Birchmere is world-famous for popularizing groups such as the Dixie Chicks and Vince Gill, among others. Musical legends, including Johnny Cash, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Patti Loveless, Dave Matthews, and others have graced the stage. With only 500 seats, no spot in the house is a bad one. With the Birchmere, you’re guaranteed a good meal from their dinner service and a memorable night of bluegrass, folk, and jazz.
The Jefferson Theater recently completed a top-to-bottom interior restoration to bring this once-vaudevillian/movie theater combo into the 21st century. Like the NorVa and the National, this historic building has been repurposed throughout the years, but now hosts a wide range of musical genres. Like much of Charlottesville’s sites, the architecture is a beauty to behold.
Unlike any previous venue on this list, the Lime Kiln Theater repurposes an actual abandoned lime quarry and kiln to host music, shows, and plays outside in the traditional Shakespearean tradition. You won’t see many big-name acts here. Instead, you’ll be in for an evening of magical, natural acoustics and wonder as some of the most talented yet largely unknown acts take the stage. The musicians that play here are many musicians’ favorite musicians, but don’t expect to hear them on the radio. The Lime Kiln Theater operates seasonally, so make sure to book your tickets for the next season in advance for this unique experience.
The Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts is one of the only national parks devoted to the purpose of performance. Its famous the world over, and is a favorite outing for the First Family. The historic and architecturally astounding Filene Center hosts the National Symphony Orchestra during the summers, as well as chart toppers such as Demi Lovato, OneRepublic, and Ringo Starr. Original works are a staple, too. A visit to Wolf Trap is almost always worth it.