It is an action-packed Wilmington weekend, folks, with three major festivals (two of them music fests), a number of big concerts and a major touring art show.
Plus, it’s the first week of June, which marks the annual return of a play or two by William Shakespeare to the shores of Greenfield Lake, and a longtime Wilmington business celebrates its 40th anniversary with a fun little variety show.
We also have a big list highlighting outdoor concerts in the area if you want to see what’s coming down the pike later this spring and summer. See link below.
And, if you’re looking for Brunswick County events, we do a separate list for that. See link below.
Wilmington events:Your guide to 2023’s can’t-miss outdoor concerts in the Wilmington area
Brunswick County events:‘Coexisting with alligators’ and Learning Leland highlight 10 upcoming Brunswick events
At Art in Bloom: One of Wilmington’s best and most prolific artists, Elizabeth Darrow, has a show of new paintings titled “On the Road to Find Out” featuring her striking images, often of people and animals living in a kind of whimsical harmony. Also on display is “Cape Fear’s Ocean Dwellers,” a show of photographs by Allison Bowman. Opening reception is 5-8 p.m. June 1 at Art in Bloom in the Mayfaire shopping center. Both shows on display through July 2.
At the Carolina Beach Boardwalk: Memorial Day weekend’s season kickoff of this weekly event was a soggy rainout, so the concert-fireworks combo hopes to get off to a better start this week. Veteran Wilmington act Polar Bear Blues Band will play a mix of rock and blues before a fireworks display over the beach strand. 6:30-9:30 p.m. June 1, fireworks start at 9 p.m. Free.
Cape Fear Shakespeare
At Greenfield Lake Amphitheater: It’s the first weekend of June, so it must be time for some free Shakespeare at Greenfield Lake. As part of a tradition that began back in 1993, when the “stage” at Greenfield Lake Amphitheater was just a concrete slab, Cape Fear Shakespeare will present a pair of plays this month.
“The Comedy of Errors,” performed by Cape Fear Shakespeare’s youth company, opens Friday and will run for 10 performances in June. The main company presents “The Two Noble Kinsmen” starting June 7, also running for 10 performances.
“The Comedy of Errors” is about a pair of long-separated twins who experience an unlikely reunion, while seldom-seen “The Two Noble Kinsmen” is a tragicomedy based on “The Knight’s Tale” from “The Canterbury Tales.” “Comedy of Errors” runs 8 p.m. June 2, 4, 12-15 and 19-22. “Two Noble Kinsmen” runs 8 p.m. June 7-11, 16-18 and 24-25. Free, with donations accepted. Gates open at 6:30 p.m. Picnics allowed, refreshments available.
‘High Voter Turnout’
At Thalian Hall (ballroom): It’s the last weekend for Wilmington author and humor columnist Celia Rivenbark’s new play, written with Kevin Parker, which takes a political turn when a small North Carolina county gets in a big tizzy over whether to legalize marijuana. Lots of laughs on the subjects of the burgeoning pot economy and the provincial nature of small-town politics. 7:30 p.m. June 3-4, 2 p.m. June 4. 910-632-2285.
Theater review:‘High’ art: Celia Rivenbark stage comedy riffs on the pot economy and small-town politics
At Dead Crow Comedy Room: New York City comic, DJ, actor and podcaster brings his no-holds-barred act to Wilmington for the first time. Cipha has opened for the likes of Dave Chappelle and Michael Che, and last year he did a viral set about his beef with podcaster Joe Rogan. 7 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. June 2-3, $22 and $32.
‘Confluence: Connections in Fiber’
At the ArtWorks: Nationally juried fiber arts show is coming to this complex in Wilmington’s South Front district. The work of more than a dozen artists will be represented, including that of Patricia Turner of Florida, whose art often addresses such subjects as racism and who will be on hand to meet guests and discuss her work. From the taboo-facing quilts of Charlotte artist Beverly Smith to the hand-dyed fibers of East Carolina University’s Robin Lynn Haller to the abstract fiber pieces of Denver’s J. Bruce Wilcox, a wide range of styles will be on display. Opening reception is 6-9 p.m. June. Fourth Friday reception is 6-9 p.m. June 25.
Airlie Gardens Concert Series
At Airlie Gardens: The band TripleWide featuring Brett Johnson will play funk, blues, rock and soul to kick off this popular music series. Advance tickets are required for those who aren’t garden members, and they go on sale the Monday before each concert. Parking is off-site at the New Hanover County Public Library’s Northeast Branch, which is where you catch the free shuttle. Concessions not available, but chairs, blankets and picnics are allowed. 6-8 p.m. June 2. Tickets are $10, $3 for ages 4-12, free for ages 3 and under. 910-798-7700.
Friday Night Live
At the pier at Port City Marina: The Rolling Stones tribute band Satisfaction will kick off this big concert series on the Wilmington Riverwalk’s northside. Opening act is Wilmington rockabilly band The Phantom Playboys. One of two free, outdoor concerts downtown on Friday night; if you wanted, you could hit up both (see below), as they’re in easy walking distance of each other. 6-9 p.m. June 2. Free. Purchase of $1 wristband required to purchase alcohol; proceeds benefit American Legion Post 68 of Leland.
Free Concert Friday
At the Eagle’s Dare: Asheville jam band Dr. Bacon headlines this weekly series, with Churchyard Ghost opening up. One of two free, outdoor concerts downtown on Friday night; if you wanted, you could hit up both (see above), as they’re in easy walking distance of each other. 6 p.m. opener, with headliners going on at 8 p.m. Free.
The Pinkerton Raid
At Satellite Bar & Lounge: North Carolina indie folk act returns to Wilmington for a show at this South Front staple. Led by singer and songwriter Jesse James DeConto, who worked for more than a decade as a crime reporter, The Pinkerton Raid’s tunes look inward and outward, at ills both personal and social. 8 p.m. June 2, free.
Carolina Beach Music Festival
At the Carolina Beach Boardwalk: Some say the beach music genre, a sort of Southern-style spinoff of Motown’s R&B sound, was born in Carolina Beach, and this annual festival (2023 is the 37th) brings it all back home. Attendance swelled to as much as 40,000 in the late ’80 and early ’90s, back when attendance was free, but while the chaos is more reined in these days, the music remains a perfect complement to the surf and the sand. Bands this year are Jim Quick & Coastline, Band of Oz and the Cat 5 Band. Festival runs 10 a.m.-5 p.m. June 3, and tickets are $35.
More:Carolina Beach Music Festival — What you need to know about the music, tickets and parking
At CFCC Union Station: It’s the big annual fundraiser for the Arts Council of Wilmington and New Hanover County, which does yeoman’s work for our arts community each year, helping secure grants for area groups and promoting what they call “the social and economic impact of the arts on our community,” which is substantial. We should never take having an arts council for granted, especially considering that some much larger cities, like Memphis, don’t have one. The Arty Party will feature a range of live music, live performances and art on display, along with food and drinks. 7-10 p.m. June 3. $100 per person.
At Greenfield Lake Amphitheater: Rootsy Athens, Georgia, indie rock band has been playing Wilmington for years, mostly at smaller venues like Bourgie Nights. This weekend the burgeoning band steps up to the big stage at Greenfield Lake. After-party at the nearby Greenfield Lake Yacht Club with Wilmington’s own Lady Die. 7 p.m. June 3, tickets start at $29.
Memory Lane 40th anniversary variety show
At Bourgie Nights: Downtown comic book shop Memory Lane celebrates its fourth decade in Wilmington with some of Wilmington’s best artists at this variety show. Wilmington comic and impresario Louis Tee will host, with stand-up sets by Wills Maxwell Jr. and Izzy Burger; poetry by IZDAGOD; dances by Allison Porter; and live music with veteran Port City band D&D Sluggers, aka the one-man wonder Tim White. 7 p.m. doors, 8 p.m. show June 3, $10 in advance, $15 at the door.
At Live Oak Bank Pavilion: Texas country singer known for such hits as “To Be Loved By You,” “Pretty Heart” and “Like a Cowboy” makes his first appearance in Wilmington. McCollum’s latest single is “Handle on You” from his new album “Never Enough.” Note that this concert was pushed back from its original date of June 2. 7:30 p.m. June 3, tickets start at $39.
Port City Highland Games
Randall Parkway: Southeastern North Carolina was settled by a significant number of Scots, and this annual festival and games is a way of remembering that. Highlights include such athletic competitions as the hammer throw and “turning of the caber” (log toss), as well performances of Highland dance and the demonstration of bagpipes and other Scottish instruments. In addition to the contests, there will be vendors, food trucks, dog herding demos and classic and antique automobiles from the British Motor Club of the Cape Fear. Plus, nearby Flying Machine Brewery will release the limited edition Port City Highland Games Beer. 10 a.m.-5 p.m. June 3. $15 and $7.50 in advance, $20 at the gate.
Port City Music Festival
At the Kenan Chapel Landfall and other venues: 15th annual festival of classical and chamber music returns for a week of free concerts. Featuring top-tier musicians from around the country, the series of concerts starts June 4 and runs through June 11, with various ensembles playing the work of Beethoven, Brahms, Hoagy Carmichael, Dvořák, Schubert, Schumann, Sondheim and many more. Note that the kickoff concert 5 p.m. Sunday, June 4, at the Kenan Chapel in Landfall has limited seating, and while tickets are free they do require advance registration.
Concerts continue 7:30 p.m. June 5 at Windermere Presbyterian Church; 7:30 p.m. June 6 at B’nai Israel; 7:30 p.m. June 7 at Church of the Good Shepherd; 7 p.m. June 8 at Cameron Art Museum; 7:30 p.m. June 9 at UNCW’s Beckwith Recital Hall; and 5 p.m. June 11 at First Presbyterian Church. For details go to PortCityMusicFestival.org.
Kure Beach Boogie in the Park
At Oceanfront Park in Kure Beach: One of the Wilmington area’s best cover bands, Uptown Easy, brings its R&B-flavored mix of dance and party tunes to this popular Pleasure Island music series. Bring a beach chair or blanket, and your dancing shoes. 5-7 p.m. June 4, free.