Five years ago, when Hopscotch first commandeered Fayetteville Street for a mild September weekend in Raleigh, it was the Triangle's only major city-centered music festival. But this year, between the rise of the INTERNATIONAL BLUEGRASS MUSIC ASSOCIATION's annual banjo-and-tenor convocation (Sept. 29–Oct. 3, various venues, www.wideopenbluegrass.com) and the arrival of the two-day festival AMERICAN ROOTS (Oct. 17–18, Walnut Creek Amphitheatre, www.blackbirdmusicgroup.com), there will be at least four such events, with a fifth, Moogfest, scheduled to land in Durham next May.
Such growth is emblematic of the Triangle's touring music offerings, evidenced by the string of legends, stars and institutions set to stream through the area during the next four months. THE RITZ in Raleigh, for instance, spent much of the last decade mostly empty. But after a pricy and beleaguered overhaul by Live Nation, it has a strong season in the works, highlighted by one of the most exciting emcees working right now, CHANCE THE RAPPER (Nov. 9, www.ritzraleigh.com). Other highlights include Purity Ring, Father John Misty and the venue's welcome, surprising continued commitment to Latino headliners.
Or there's the combined seating power of downtown Durham's CAROLINA THEATRE (www.carolinatheatre.org) and DPAC (www.dpacnc.com), which string together a series of evenings with icons before winter arrives: Mavis Staples and Aaron Neville, Brian Wilson and Jackson Browne, John Prine and Dr. John. (Impressively, it's the renovated, reenergized and smaller Carolina that has the essential music lineup this time around the sun.)
You can catch similar icons through the performing arts institutions of Duke and UNC. American treasures LUCINDA WILLIAMS and BUDDY GUY (Oct. 2 and 3, Memorial Hall, www.carolinaperformingarts.com) take consecutive nights in Chapel Hill, followed a month later by a pair of mandolin masters, DAVID GRISMAN AND DEL MCCOURY (Nov. 14). Meanwhile, the Vienna Boys Choir, Bettye LaVette and the great Abdullah Ibrahim punctuate the densely packed first half of the DUKE PERFORMANCES season (www.dukeperformances.org).
Presenting heavyweights, though, won't stop either school from presenting risky new work. Both will bring in a fleet of domestic and international rappers this year, including Ana Tijoux at Duke and Danay Suárez in Chapel Hill. Paris' ENSEMBLE INTERCONTEMPORAIN (Nov. 11, Memorial Hall) will push past the typical classical canon with works by Varèse, Pintscher and Boulez. And at Duke, HISS GOLDEN MESSENGER leader Michael Taylor (Nov. 13–14, Reynolds Industries Theater) plunders decades-old photographs taken in a Kentucky mine by documentarian William Gedney. The images come from Duke's Rubenstein Rare Book and Manuscript Library. Likewise, Duke plunges into its past for IMANI WINDS' world premiere of Breath (Oct. 29, Baldwin Auditorium), a musical examination of the life of Duke professor and African-American historian JOHN HOPE FRANKLIN. The program is part of a campus-wide celebration of Franklin's centenary (Oct. 29).
And then there are the old familiar clubs, as busy as ever. Personally, I'm excited to see DESTROYER (Oct. 8, Cat's Cradle, www.catscradle.com) get florid before TRIBULATION upstages DEAFHEAVEN (Nov. 8). And what weirder way might there be to spend a Wednesday night than bouncing between Neptunes and Kings in Raleigh (Nov. 18, www.kingsbarcade.com) to see NOBUNNY upstairs and U.S. GIRLS in the basement? Not many this fall.
But be easy: That's just one night out in a very busy season.