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Morgantown makes top 20 in ‘America’s Hidden Gems of Live Music’ ranking

A national concert ticketing website conducted a survey of several thousand Americans, compiling a list of the 120 best “Hidden Gems of Live Music” in the United States — and Morgantown ranked in the list at No. 20.

With creative events like Morgantown Arts Walk and the Moonlight Market, and concert series by the West Virginia Botanic Garden and at the city’s Ruby Amphitheater, alongside the popularity of local venues like The Metropolitan Theatre, The Encore and 123 Pleasant Street, it’s no question that the arts, and live music specifically, are a highlight of Morgantown’s culture. Although locals can recognize and appreciate the rise of artistic talent in the area, it might come as a surprise to some for Morgantown to receive national recognition for it.

“It’s no surprise to me nor anyone who makes the Mountain State home that it is a place where live music is of high priority,” said local soul, R&B and folk musician Aristotle Jones — AKA the Appalachian Soul Man. “We live in an ecosystem of afternoon porch pickin’ and evening jam sessions. Live music is a huge part of our culture. Since most travelers don’t stray too far from the main roads, I’m sure it’s quite a surprise when they wander into one of our fantastic venues and experience musical performances that rival the larger, more established music cities.”

Appalachia’s history is deeply intertwined with music, specifically genres that are Appalachian at their core, including bluegrass, folk, gospel and more. Music has always been a way for communities to communicate and connect with one another, and this tradition has only grown stronger with time.

With the development of West Virginia and its people, so too has the music scene changed and adapted alongside the state. West Virginia’s music scene is now comprised not only of its folk roots, but also the continued introduction of other genres, cultures and artists.

“The live music scene in West Virginia is like a quilt interwoven with a vast network of small towns with big appetites for live music. It’s along these corridors through the country roads that West Virginia musicians like me hone our craft,” said Jones. “Morgantown is unique in that it is home to WVU, so every year we get an influx of new perspectives from out of state that begin to blend with our West Virginia values. In that regard we have the best of both worlds. A beautiful collision of in-state work ethic and ingenuity, with an out-of-state wonder and optimism.”

The success of local music venues has encouraged the growth of blossoming new artists and the continuation of Appalachian music’s historical influences. One such venue is The Encore, a listening room that aims to spotlight local artists new and old with a focus only on the artist’s talents, without distractions like food, drinks or background noise.

“I love live music and wanted to create a new lane in the local music highway by offering a listening room environment, an intimate setting for artists to perform without the distractions associated with shows in other types of small venues,” said The Encore owner Jay Redmond. “We’re all about young artists and giving them the opportunity to get on stage with the lights in their eyes and get a real taste of what performing live is all about.”

Just as this “Hidden Gems of Live Music” ranking would suggest, live music offers a unique experience for artists and listeners alike. In an age of music streaming — which has helped new artists to be heard and appreciated by audiences that may have previously been inaccessible — live music still holds an important place in community and culture.

“I would encourage folks to go experience something genuine,” said Redmond. “There’s nothing like the shared experience that live music provides and it’s uplifting to see people come together as one in support of performing artists.”

After the local appreciation and elevation of West Virginia’s arts, the rest of the world can also begin to take notice — or continue taking notice, as this survey suggests.

“In Morgantown and throughout West Virginia we have an opportunity to tell our story and surveys like this only show that the world is watching and noticing. We are allowed to be proud of the hard work we are putting into our small state,” said Jones. “For over a century our coal has lit the homes of millions of Americans and now it’s time for us to shine our light.”

Read CheapoTicketing’s full ranking at Visit and for information on the musician and venue that contributed to this article. For folks interested in West Virginia’s musical history, the WVU West Virginia & Regional History Center has an extensive collection of regional folk music dating back to the 1930s, available online at