Itinerary

Augusta Music

Points of interest, music festivals and venues in "The Garden City"

Although best known as James Brown's town, a city of soul and epicenter for funk, the Augusta area's rich musical history and vibrant present were built on the sounds of country, rock, gospel, jazz and, yes, soul. Be it the groundbreaking blues of Blind Willie McTell, the athletic arias of opera legend Jessye Norman, the new Nashville sound of Lady Antebellum, the award-winning jazz trombone of Wycliffe Gordon or the late, great keeper of the Godfather flame Sharon Jones, Augusta’s music and musicians have a long, strong history of producing music that influences artists around the world.

Below, use the itinerary to find must-see music venues, festivals and more points of interest, and listen to music by local artists in the "Our Augusta Picks" playlist.

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Points of Interest

Godfather of Soul Exhibition and James Brown Landmarks

The Godfather of Soul, Mr. James Brown exhibition at the 1. Augusta Museum of History tells the story of the acclaimed singer, songwriter, dancer and bandleader through personal artifacts and rare memorabilia.

The James Brown Family Historical Tour is a narrated bus tour that visits sites that are significant to the history of James Brown growing up and living in Augusta. Tours originate at the Augusta Museum of History and take place once a week on Saturdays from 11:00 a.m. until 12:45 a.m. Tickets are $15 and include admission to the Augusta Museum of History. Reservations should be made in advance by calling 803-640-2090. For more information, visit jamesbrownfamilyfdn.com.

Just a couple blocks away on Broad Street, between 8th Street and James Brown Boulevard (formerly 9th Street), a life-sized bronze statue of the music icon stands in 2. James Brown Plaza. The statue was dedicated by Brown himself just a year before he passed away in 2006.

3. Augusta Canal Moonlight Music Cruise

Solo artists and small ensembles entertain aboard the Petersburg boats as they float down the Augusta Canal, the only intact industrial canal in use in the South. Performers have included folk/bluegrass group The Henrys, torch singer Gwen Hughes and jazz saxophonist Fred Williams, among others.

4. Parade of Quartets

An Augusta institution, the television show Parade of Quartets (POQ) has broadcast on WJBF-TV every Sunday morning for more than 60 years. The longest-running religious music program in television history, POQ presents the very best of African American quartet and gospel music.

5. Psychotronic Augusta

Spend hours browsing Psychotronic Augusta’s eclectic inventory of vinyl 33 1/3 LPs and 45s, CDs, music posters and books, movie collectibles, DVDs, rare paperbacks, comic books and more.

6. Pyramid Music & More

An old-school record store experience, Pyramid has been serving Augusta with hard-to-find soul and R&B music for more than 30 years.

7. Symphony Orchestra Augusta

Bringing classical music to Augusta for more than 60 years, Symphony Orchestra Augusta is led by the dynamic Maestro Shizuo Z. Kuwahara. Throughout the year, SOA presents its annual Symphony Series, the Pops! at the Bell Series and the Columbia County Music Series.

Mentioned in this Itinerary

Venues

1. Broad Street

The somewhat more modest equivalent of Austin’s 6th Street and Beale Street in Memphis, Broad Street is Augusta music’s home address. Highlights among the venues and watering holes include Joe’s Underground presenting bands, comedy and Hip Hop and Poetry Open Mic; Metro, a coffee house, pub and live music venue; and Stillwater Taproom, specializing in bluegrass, Americana and the occasional country act.

2. Imperial Theatre

Opened in 1918, the historic Imperial Theatre has long been an anchor of culture and entertainment on Broad Street in downtown Augusta. With 853 seats, the Imperial presents concerts, Broadway shows and hosts the long-running Southern Soul and Song series presented by the Morris Museum of Art.

3. James Brown Arena and Bell Auditorium

Built in 1977, James Brown Arena was re-named in honor of the Godfather just prior to his death in 2006. It is part of the municipal Augusta Entertainment Complex, which also includes Bell Auditorium. Both venues host a variety of concerts and entertainment events.

4. Jessye Norman Amphitheatre

Jessye Norman, the lauded Grammy award-winning opera singer and recitalist, grew up in Augusta, where she would listen to Metropolitan Opera broadcasts on her radio as young girl. In 1990, the Jessye Norman Amphitheatre was dedicated in her honor as part of the Augusta Riverwalk. The concert venue offers commanding views of the Savannah River and space for 1,800 music fans.

5. Lady Antebellum Pavilion

Charles Kelley and Dave Haywood, two-thirds of the Grammy award-winning trio Lady Antebellum, were both born in Augusta, met in middle school, wrote their first song together as young teens and graduated from Lakeside High School in Evans, a suburb of Augusta. Their chart-topping band came to town in 2011 for a concert to officially open the Lady Antebellum Pavillion at Evans Towne Center Park, which hosts a variety of concerts and series including Blues, Brews and BBQ in April.

6. Sky City

The 800-capcity live music venue and bar is renowned for bringing national touring acts (Dinosaur Jr., Jason Isbell, Shovels & Rope) as well as providing a home base for Augusta’s many local artists.

7. Soul Bar

Located a few blocks east of Sky City, Soul Bar offers a more intimate space for live music and its famous DJ nights. The pool table in back was once a favorite hand for James Brown, the man who inspired this spectacular dive’s vibe.

8. Southbound Smokehouse

Opened in 2014 and named after an Allman Brothers Band song, Southbound Smokehouse is a casual barbecue restaurant and acoustic music venue with music memorabilia covering the walls and barbecue sauces named for songs by artists including Neil Young, Widespread Panic and Grateful Dead.

Mentioned in this Itinerary

Music Festivals

1. Arts in the Heart of Augusta

The sprawling Arts in the Heart of Augusta Festival, held annually in September, programs multiple stages — including World, Jazz and Troubadour — with a focus on musical diversity and dozens of performers featured throughout the three-day weekend.

2. Garden City Jazz

Garden City Jazz works to connect, promote and develop the jazz community. As part of its mission, the organization presents several programs throughout the year, including Soiree: Jazz + Wine on 4th Saturdays and the Candlelight Jazz Concert Series held between May and August.

3. Papa Joe’s Banjobque Music Festival

Held over the Memorial Day weekend at Evans Towne Center Park, Banjobque features roots, Americana and bluegrass music. Past bands have included Old Crow Medicine Show, Avett Brothers, Trampled by Turtles, Whiskey Gentry and more.

4. Riverwalk Revival

A relatively new two-day concert series, Riverwalk Revival is set at the Jessye Norman Amphitheatre on the Augusta Riverwalk. Presented in August and October, the series has recently featured Drive-By Truckers, T. Hardy Morris, Moon Taxi, SUSTO and Sleepwalkers.

5. Southern Soul & Song

For more than a decade, Morris Museum of Art’s Budweiser True Music Southern Soul & Song concert series has presented icons and rising stars in bluegrass, country, Americana, gospel, roots and jazz. Held at the historic Imperial Theatre, Southern Soul & Song has featured acclaimed artists, including the late Doc Watson, Del McCoury, Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Sam Bush, Marty Stuart, Ricky Skaggs and many more.

6. 12 Bands of Christmas

The annual CD project and Christmas concert on Augusta Common features 12 local bands and solo artists. Proceeds benefit young cancer patients at Medical College of Georgia Children’s Medical Center and their families.

7. Westobou Festival

Westobou Festival takes an innovative approach to musical performances among its art and dance offerings. Past performers have included Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings, Janelle Monáe, Roseanne Cash, Ben Folds and more.