One of Charlotte’s unique gems for live music, the Whitewater Center will return with a full slate in 2021

 By Cameron Lee

April 28, 2021

It seems like ages ago we were able to fully enjoy one of Charlotte’s outdoor gems, the Whitewater Center. The 1,300-acre facility offering 50 miles of trails and over 30 different recreational activities remained one of the few spaces during the pandemic that could still operate. Offering reprieve for outdoor enthusiasts in the region, the U.S. National Whitewater Center has also provided a haven for music lovers over the years. 

Remember Jason Isbell on the Fourth of July in 2011? How about Tyler Childers, who played the Whitewater Center’s Tuck Fest in 2019? From the legendary Bruce Hornsby to the vintage soul sounds of Durand Jones and the Indications to Third Man Records’ Nashville darling Margo Price to New Orleans brass phenom, Trombone Shorty, the Whitewater Center has provided some spectacular musical memories since its opening in 2006. 

Bruce Hornsby performing at the Whitewater Center on Fourth of July in 2015.

Jesse Hyde, the brand director at the Whitewater Center has been heading the music programming since he first came on board in 2010. A native of Burlington, North Carolina, and a Wake Forest grad, Hyde moved to Charlotte in 2008 to attend grad school at UNC Charlotte, and started at the Whitewater Center as an intern. 

While the Whitewater Center might be more widely known as a gathering place for recreational sports and activities, music was always a part of the greater vision. With lineups and acts that rival some national festivals, the music programming has grown parallel with Charlotte’s live music scene. 

Margo Price at Tuck Fest in 2017.

“I hope that we add to what I feel is a growing and very interesting music ecosystem. The industry, live shows and live music in Charlotte, from my perspective, has grown leaps and bounds in the 12 or 13 years that I’ve been here,” said Hyde. 

Since 2008, the year-long concert series called River Jam has showcased some of the city and region’s best roots rock, Americana, folk, and funk acts. The series returns in May offering a tremendous platform for rising bands with the high-quality outdoor stage and a remarkable backdrop with no admission fee for attendees. 

“Our music program complements all the great artists and venues that are populating the city right now. Hopefully everybody sees what we do as a benefit, and you know, we can help grow some of the exposure of the music community and culture this year,” said Hyde. 

The Wood Brothers at Tuck Fest in 2018.

This year’s River Jam lineup boasts more variety than past years, with August highlighting Charlotte acts like Quentin Talley and the Soul Providers (August 6), Queen City funk collective Groove 8 (August 14), and Latin ska/reggae band Bakalao Stars (August 27). Other notable local acts include psychedelic rockers Ancient Cities (May 22), indie-folk outfit Elonzo Wesley (July 8), alt-rock band Swim in the Wild (August 13), and alternative country rock group Time Sawyer (September 30). 

In addition to River Jam, Hyde and the rest of the Whitewater Center team are excited to host annual events like Tuck Fest again, the Center’s premier music showcase. Though it usually takes place in April, it’s been rescheduled for October 1-3 this year with plans to bring it back to April in 2022. Other notable dates for live music at the Center include Memorial Day, Labor Day, and the Fourth of July show, which features one of the largest fireworks shows in the region. 

Courtesy of U.S. National Whitwater Center

For many concert and festival-goers, togetherness is just as essential as the music that gathers us, but in a post-pandemic world, the outdoors and nature are just as vital for our well-being. 

“This place is meant to create ways to engage the public, and that’s our job every single day is to come up with new and better ways to do that,” Hyde said. 

And while the world prepares to get back to a new normal, we can take solace in knowing Hyde and the Whitewater Center will continue to bring us an outdoor sanctuary for great live music. 

Courtesy of U.S. National Whitwater Center

Check out the full 2021 River Jam lineup at the U.S National Whitewater Center. 

Saturday, May 1 – Three Star Revival
Thursday, May 6 – Motherfolk
Friday, May 7 – The Mantras
Saturday, May 8 – Gaslight Street
Thursday, May 13 – The Orange Constant
Friday, May 14 – Yam Yam
Saturday, May 15 – Austin Plaine
Thursday, May 20 – Empire Strikes Brass
Friday, May 21 – Jon Stickley Trio
Saturday, May 22 – Ancient Cities
Thursday, May 27 – Hank, Pattie & The Current
Friday, May 28 – Songs from the Road Band
Saturday, May 29 – Desert Noises
Thursday, June 3 – Carly Burruss
Friday, June 4 – The Jakob’s Ferry Stragglers
Thursday, June 10 – Seth Walker
Friday, June 11 – AFTM
Saturday, June 12 – Lord Nelson
Thursday, June 17 – Joslyn & The Sweet Compression
Friday, June 18 – Unspoken Tradition
Saturday, June 19 – Virginia Ground
Thursday, June 24 – The 502s
Saturday, June 26 – Little Bird
Thursday, July 1 – Underground Springhouse
Friday, July 2 – TRUETT
Thursday, July 8 – Elonzo Wesley
Friday, July 9 – Hedonistas
Saturday, July 10 – Big Daddy Love
Thursday, July 15 – Taylor Scott Band
Friday, July 16 – Revelwood Mission
Saturday, July 17 – Pluto Gang
Thursday, July 22 – Whitehall
Friday, July 23 – Brother Moses
Saturday, July 24 – The Hooten Hallers
Friday, July 30 – The High Divers
Saturday, July 31 – BadCameo
Thursday, August 5 – Mike Mains & The Branches
Friday, August 6 – Quentin Talley and The Soul Providers
Saturday, August 7 – Red Dress Army
Thursday, August 12 – Late Night Special
Friday, August 13 – Swim in the Wild
Saturday, August 14 – Groove 8
Thursday, August 19– Ross Adams
Friday, August 20 – Province of Thieves
Saturday, August 21 – Justin Fedor & The Denim Denim
Thursday, August 26 – Abby Bryant & The Echoes
Friday, August 27 – Bakalao Stars
Saturday, August 28 – Pressing Strings
Thursday, September 2 – Nora Jane Struthers
Friday, September 3 – Melody Trucks Band
Saturday, September 4 – Dead Horses
Thursday, September 9 – The Red Clay Strays
Friday, September 10 – The Tall Trees
Saturday, September 11 – Universal Sigh
Thursday, September 16 – Lovers Leap
Friday, September 17 – Sun-Dried Vibes
Thursday, September 23 – Eliza Neals
Friday, September 24 – Brother Smith
Saturday, September 25 – Aaron Kamm & The One Drops
Thursday, September 30 – Time Sawyer

Read next:

In this article