You may know Virginia as a Southern state and therefore expect the majority of the music in the region to be country music, but the Old Dominion is actually a state with a great diversity in terms of music. Everything from country and rock to hip hop and R&B – we literally have it all.
Now, obviously country music does have a long and storied history in Virginia, and it’s probably the kind of music that most people out there associate with the state. A lot of the sounds of country music in general have roots in one way or another in Virginia, and bluegrass in particular is a hallmark of the state that traces back all the way to colonial times and endures today. The style is has influences from all over – from the early music of the British colonialists to the traditional music of the Africans brought over in the slave trade. Bluegrass is characterized by its breakneck pace, and more esoteric instruments like the fiddle, the mandolin, and the banjo are used in conjunction with more common instruments like acoustic guitars to create a distinct sound. In recent years, bluegrass has experienced a resurgence in popularity thanks to the progressive bluegrass sub genre which is catching the attention of hipsters and bearded folk all over the US.
Here’s one of my personal favorite progressive bluegrass/newgrass bands.
Outside of country music, Virginia also happens to be the home of a whole host of Hip Hop and R&B superstars. Obviously Pharrell Williams and his production partner Chad Hugo are legendary as The Neptunes – probably the most successful production team in the past two decades. Missy Elliot and Timbaland are two more very notable and accomplished Virginia natives in the Hip Hop and R&B space. There are also a bunch of less well known up and coming artists from the Virginia area that are worthy of more attention – Clipse is an extremely well regarded hip hop duo, and although the two members are going their separate ways, both artists (Malice and Pusha T) deserve to be more well known as artists.
There’s also a thriving rock scene in a number of cities in Virginia – whether you’re in Richmond or Fairfax, Alexandria or Virginia Beach, you can probably at least find a handful of up and coming bands that will blow you away. There’s also a reasonably prominent heavy metal scene in and around Richmond if you’re into that kind of music (I’m not).
The live music scene is thriving in Richmond and a whole bunch of other smaller cities across the state. Whatever your jam is, you can probably find a bar or club where they play your type of music pretty close by. If festivals are more your thing, there are plenty of those happening in and around the are as well. One of my favorite places for live music in Richmond is Balliceaux – the music there is varied, and on any given night you might find yourself listening to jazz, rock, or just pretty random world music that you’ve never come across before. The food and drinks are also great – if you find yourself in Richmond and you’re looking for a live music experience, you should definitely check it out. As for festivals, FloydFest is a pretty well known festival that features a bunch of pretty high profile bands as well as a ton of great acts that you may not have heard before.
Hopefully, you’ve learned a little something about Virginia and it’s rich musical tradition from the little that I know about it. Now, go to youtube and watch some bluegrass videos or something.