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Cornelius News

Lake Norman music scene strikes a high note

Music in the Lost Worlds Brewing biergarten / Lost Worlds Brewing photo

July 15. By TL Bernthal. As the summer gets hotter, the Lake Norman music scene is warming up.

The local music scene is indeed coming back from pandemic days, but it’s coming back in some very different ways.

Many venues don’t have the staff to stay open late, and this has resulted in earlier starting times and shorter sets.


“It used to be common that our gigs were three hours, from 8-11. Now several venues are 7-9 or 8-10,” says performer Rusty Knox, who is also the mayor of Davidson.

“I’m fine with that, but as a performer that doesn’t give time to take a decent break and interact with the crowd,” Knox  says. “I mostly play straight through for two hours and I’m out.”

Thirsty Horses performing at Piper’s at Galway Hooker

Knox  performs solo and in small groups.

Brett Milstead, the front man for the Lake Norman-based band Thirsty Horses,  says the earlier gigs are for the most part a nice change, as he finds he’s booking mostly solo gigs right now. He performs four to six times a week.

“One thing that has changed for me is the number of solo gigs I play now compared to pre-pandemic,” Milstead says.

“I still play duo, trio and full-band shows with my group, Thirsty Horses, but there are more solo show opportunities on the backside of the pandemic.”

Milstead estimates 80 percent of his shows right now are solo performances, “but there are signs that venues are moving back toward hiring larger groups again, especially in the warmer months.”

One of those venues with full-band shows is BoatYard Lake Norman, 18418 Statesville Road, which offers live music and food.

“The big stuff like Boatyard are crazy busy,” says Knox, who is performing two or three times a month, but hopes to start getting more gigs as he’s recovering from a hip replacement.

Breweries and bars

Knox noted there are more smaller venues that are well-received by the public. And some offer outdoor seating as well.

Rusty Knox serves as mayor of Davidson and is also a local musician

Small venues such as Davidson Wine Co., Summit Coffee, Hop & Vine Davidson, Bin 110 and Old Town Public House are offering two or more nights of live music, Knox says.

Lost Worlds Brewing in Cornelius, for example, typically books music on Friday and Saturday nights in the biergarten with a variety of bands and acoustics. The brewery has the ability to move solo acts inside if bad weather happens.

“We always see a steady crowd on live music nights and people tend to stick around longer and listen to music they enjoy,” says Sherri Johnson of Lost Worlds.

Lost Worlds extended hours, now open noon to 11 pm, to accommodate the listening crowd, Johnson says.

Grab your lawn chair

Music lovers also grab their lawn chairs and blankets and head to hear bands at Birkdale Village, LangTree and other free outdoor options. Check venue websites to see whether coolers, alcohol and food can be brought or are available for purchase.

That’s true of municipal-sponsored concerts as well.

It’s always a good idea to arrive early as the best spots fill up fast.

The Laketoberfest Music & Brew Festival

“There’s an enthusiasm for being out and about that is noticeable,” Milstead says.

The spring, summer and fall of ‘21 were strong, but that waned a bit heading into the cooler months and talk of another surge in COVID cases, he says.

“This year it seems we have finally turned the corner as far as live entertainment is concerned.”

Towns get in on the act


The town hosts the Charlotte Symphony at the band shell at Bailey Road Park near the Fourth of July and provides fireworks.

Otherwise, this outdoor venue goes largely unused unless a band is booked as part of a special event such as the Laketoberfest Music & Brew Festival. Details: cornelius.org

The Cain Center for the Arts offers music performances, too. Click here for ticket info.


Kim Fleming, the Davidson economic developer, believes the music scene is stronger than pre-pandemic. The town will host 28 concerts in total this season and has expanded the concert season to last from April-October.

Davidson hosts three concert series to support its business areas: Downtown (Concerts on the Green), The Circles @ 30 (Concerts @ the Circles), and South Main (Second Saturdays @ the Square).

Concerts on the Green traditionally have been on Sundays when most businesses are closed, but Fleming says the booked some Saturdays “to see if it increases business at our shops and restaurants.”

Click here to find who is playing where.

“Our concerts in Davidson are great,” Knox says. “People missed this and now that it’s back, they are embracing it. “


The town hosts the LaLaCaboosa concerts on the third Thursdays from June through October at Veterans Park at Main and Maxwell streets. Click here for schedule and details.

Food trucks and alcohol purchase available. The town also held an outdoor Jazz Concert series in April.

The town celebrates Latino Night Oct. 1 with live music, food and drinks. Click for details.


The town kicked off its “Rock the Park – Liberty Park Concert Series,” in May. The five free shows for the community are held at Liberty Park, at 255 E. Iredell Ave. The final performance in this monthly series is slated for Oct. 7. Info here.