Jacksonville Music Scene
Lauren Wells | March 7, 2014
During the 1950s and 1960s, Pat Boone, a Jacksonville native, topped the charts with his pop hits. A member of the Gospel Music Hall of Fame, Boone has sold over 45 million albums and during his tours in the 1950s, Elvis was one of his opening acts. While Boone increased the popularity of rock and roll, 1965 saw the founding of the band Classics IV. Known for their Southern rock sound, Classics IV began as a cover band but later recorded original hits like “Spooky,” “Stormy,” and “Traces.” Formed in Jacksonville, the Allman Brothers Band defined Southern rock during the late 60s and 70s. Their hits “Ramblin’ Man” and “Whipping Post” showcased their blues, jazz, and country music aesthetic. Also during this time, Lynyrd Skynyrd put Southern hard rock on the map with their songs “Sweet Home Alabama” and “Free Bird.” Other Southern rock bands like Blackfoot, .38 Special, and Molly Hatchet also came out of Jacksonville in the 70s. .38 Special saw success during the 80s for their hits “Hold on Loosely,” “Caught Up in You,” and “If I’d Been the One.” Jacksonville also churned out the Grammy nominated rap metal band Limp Bizkit in the 90s, most notable for their angry lyrics and elaborate live shows. The 90s also saw hip-hop acts like 95 South and 69 Boyz as well as progressive rock bands like Inspection 12. During the late 90s and 2000s, grunge metal bands like Cold gained popularity in the Jacksonville area. This time period also popularized bands like Yellowcard, Shinedown, the Red Jumpsuit Apparatus, and Black Kids.
The Jacksonville Metropolitan Park opened in 1984 on a 27-acre lot of land located along the St. Johns River. Tony Bennett, Brad Paisley, Jessica Simpson, Earth, Wind, and Fire, James Taylor, Idina Menzel, Michael Buble, Styx, Train, and Jackson Browne, among others, have performed at the Metropolitan Park’s 2,400 square foot stage. The 10,000 capacity outdoor venue is a great spot for year-round entertainment. With vendors and festivals galore, Metropolitan Park is an inviting, spacious atmosphere with views of the Jacksonville skyline. So pack a picnic, bring your folding chairs, and gather your friends for a memorable day or night at Met Park.
Brewster’s Megaplex is home to Lava Lounge, the Pit, the Roc Bar, and Edge Concert Hall. Past shows have included 3 Doors Down, Afroman, Anthrax, Brad Paisley, Dashboard Confessional, Chiodos, Lil Wayne, Juicy J, Mac Miller, Machine Gun Kelly, Roots, Rob Zombie, the Misfits, T.I., and the Wailers, among others. A former shopping center, Brewster’s Megaplex has varying capacities for each of their four spaces, and they feature national, regional, and local acts.
Originally opened in 1927 as a movie theatre, the Florida Theatre is a high style “movie palace” with elaborate architecture. The main auditorium has a six-story proscenium arch, crisp acoustics, and great sight lines to the stage. This 1,900 capacity venue was a vaudeville theatre with programming that included the news, a comedy short, a cartoon, a sing-along with the orchestra, and a feature film all within the course of one night. But with the decline of vaudeville, the theatre had to stay modern: it hosted film screenings, fashion shows, trade shows, opera, dance, drama, and live performers such as Elvis Presley. After undergoing a major restoration in 1983, the theatre hosts 200 cultural and entertainment events per year. Located along the St. Johns River, the Florida Theatre has hosted Merle Haggard, Queens of the Stone Age, Kenny Loggins, the Beach Boys, the Temptations, and the Four Tops, along with other notable names in music and comedy. A truly stunning historical venue, the Florida Theatre should be at the top of your list of Jacksonville venues to check out.
The Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena is a 15,000 capacity arena that hosts the biggest names in music and sports. Opened in 2003, the state-of-the-art venue’s first performance was a concert by Elton John. The arena is home to the Jacksonville Sharks (of the Arena Football League), the Jacksonville Dolphins (of men’s basketball), and the Jacksonville Giants (of the American Basketball Association). Billy Joel, Backstreet Boys, Godsmack, Cher, the Eagles, Dave Matthews Band, Motley Crue, Alice Cooper, and Limp Bizkit are just a few of the big names that have come through here.
Freebird Live, formerly Freebird Café, opened in 1999 and offered a rare private collection of Lynyrd Skynyrd memorabilia in addition to being a restaurant and music venue. With live music every night of the week, Freebird Live is now primarily a music venue, as they phased out the café and a majority of the memorabilia. The venue is located in Jacksonville Beach and showcases national and regional acts as well as up-and-coming local artists. An intimate space, Freebird Live is a two-story, 700 capacity venue with a balcony that overlooks the main stage. Need your nicotine fix? No worries: the venue has an outdoor wrap around balcony. Bands such as Traveling Riverside Band, Innuendo, Galactic, the Wailers, Dr. Sirbrother, Clutch, Canary in the Coalmine, and Fusebox Funk have performed on the cozy stage.
The Times Union Center opened in 1962 with renovations lasting from 1995 to 1997. The Moran Theater, the Jacoby Symphony Hall, and the Terry Theater make up the center. Home to the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra and the Jacksonville Youth Orchestra, the Times Union Center is located in downtown Jacksonville along the riverfront. The Moran Theater, with a capacity of 3,000, hosts Broadway productions like War Horse and dance icons like Alvin Ailey. The Jacoby Symphony Hall is primarily used for 1,700 capacity orchestral performances given that it was designed in such a way that it contains no stage curtains, orchestra pit, fly space, or backstage wings. It even houses the Bryan Concert organ, a rebuilt Casavant pipe organ. The Terry Theater, a 600 capacity space, is a recital hall used for dance recitals, lectures, comedy shows, and poetry readings.
Built on the site of the 1929 Ritz Theater movie house, the Ritz Theatre and Museum aims to “research, record, and preserve the material and artistic culture of African American life in Northeast Florida.” With lectures, concerts, film screenings, lectures, and plays, the Ritz seats 426 people in its performance space, but the museum hosts 11,000 square feet of exhibits. Its Art Deco style characterizes it as a vibrant historical location and is definitely worth checking out while you’re in town.
If your cowboy boots are on, head over to Mavericks Rock ‘N Honky Tonk Concert Hall. Located at the Jacksonville Landing, Mavericks is a country Western and rock venue that has a 21,000 square foot saloon where line dancing is encouraged. Bands like Young the Giant, Josh Gracin, and Dropkick Murphys book gigs at Mavericks, and on nights when there isn’t live music, a DJ will play hits for you as you take a try at the mechanical bull.
Jack Rabbits is a divey music venue with shows almost every night of the week. Mainly a space for local artists, Jack Rabbits also brings in nationally touring acts. Bands like the Black Dahlia Murder, We Are the In Crowd, the Turnpike Troubadors, and Man on Earth fit the bill at Jack Rabbits. Expect to get close to your fellow concertgoer, as sold-out events tend to feel a bit packed.
A Christian rock venue, Murray Hill Theatre is an alcohol-free, drug-free, and smoke-free all ages nightclub. Opened by Murray Hill Ministries in 1995, the theatre offers live entertainment programming and film screenings. The 700 capacity venue books bands like Set Apart, I Am the Witness, John Tibbs, Brooke Logan, Leah Sykes, and KJ-52.
The Curtis Phillips Center for the Performing Arts opened in 1992 and has since hosted performances by Tony Bennett, Ray Charles, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Alison Krauss, Yo-Yo Ma, David Sedaris, and Bolshoi Ballet. Located at the University of Florida, the venue has a 1,700-seat proscenium hall and a smaller 180-seat studio theatre for more intimate events.
Primarily a football stadium, EverBank Field is home to the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars and hosted the Super Bowl in 2005. The 76,867 capacity venue has seen large-scale musical performances by artists like Paul McCartney, but mainly features sporting events. Keep an eye out for artists making their way to EverBank for a one-off show.
The Jacksonville Jazz Festival, the second-largest jazz festival in the U.S, is held every May in downtown Jacksonville. With three stages to suit your jazz-seeking needs, you can catch acts like Yellow Dog Jazz Band, Gary Starling, Jazz Jam Session, Elisha Parris, Najee, the Tropic of Cancer, Yellowjackets, Trombone Shorty, and Poncho Sanchez.
Held in April, Springing the Blues was founded in 1990 and features regional, national, and local blues musicians. Springing the Blues takes place at the Seawalk Pavilion and brings in crowds of over 150,000 people. This laid-back festival has art, jewelry, clothing, and food vendors as well as a kid-friendly activity area.
Avenged Sevenfold, the Cult, Motorhead, Korn, Rob Zombie, Five Finger Death Punch, and Seether are the hard rock bands you’ll see headlining the Welcome to Rockville Festival. Held at Metropolitan Park during the spring, this rain or shine festival brings in popular metal acts.
Every June, EverBank Field hosts Country Superfest with some of the biggest names in country music including Jason Aldean, Luke Bryan, Little Big Town, Eric Church, Florida Georgia Line, Miranda Lambert, and Easton Corbin. Make sure to get there early because the Country Superfest puts on a Fan Fest & Tailgate Party immediately outside of the venue. This pre-fest tailgating ritual features a music stage, artist meet and greets, and food vendors.