This week the world Irish Dancing Championship is hosted at the Koury Convention Center on Gate City Boulevard. Not your cup of tea? You won’t know unless you check it out. (Many of the events are free for all residents of North Carolina.) And if you take a pass on that, consider all the other events you can conveniently see that make this city so full of life.
Each time the NCAA Tourney is hosted there, you get a free opportunity to see open practices. Each time figure skating championships are there, there are free or lost-cost opportunities to see the warm-up sessions – remarkably up-close. And then the real competitions are well worth the price.
Our city has hosted lots of big events over the decades, including the greatest Final Four ever (1974 at the Coliseum). Our campus has hosted Charlie Chaplin, Martha Graham and George Washington Carver. And Flannery O’Connor. John Hope Franklin.
Remember the double-bill of Emanuel Ax and Yo-Yo Ma in UNCG Auditorium? That was an evening. And the double-bill of pianist George Shearing and blues singer Joe Williams?
The many dozens of concerts in the area by the Carolina Chocolate Drops, with former UNCG grad student Rhiannon Giddens. In an early concert, I took my boys to a community center 30 minutes away to hear them play with Joe Thompson. I have some photos somewhere.
And speaking of Ms. Giddens, did you see the first production of “Beautiful Star,” with music by alumna Lauralyn Dossett, in which Rhiannon sang “O Holy Night” to end the show? Moments like those are Broadway quality – and you don’t have to fly to New York. UNCG Theatre’s ongoing relationship with Triad Stage is a win-win – and Triad Stage tickets are as low as $10 for any production. You can park in the deck behind the theater, often for free. Try that in Manhattan.
I missed Toad the Wet Sprocket on campus in the 90s. I did catch The Drive-By Truckers beside Yum-Yum. 10 dollars a ticket. I missed a free show by Merle Haggard at a summer downtown festival, but I did see The Mavericks. Free.
I’ve seen Springsteen five times at the Coliseum, plus The Cars, Dixie Chicks, Prince (Purple Rain tour, with Sheila E. opening.), Paul Simon.
Charlie Louvin at a local club. Jason Isbell at the Blind Tiger. Guitar Gabriel at New York Pizza. Gillian Welch at the Flying Anvil. Gibson Brothers at the Green Bean. The pop/punk band Ex Hex in the Gatewood Studio Arts Building, electric guitar reverb bouncing off the concrete walls. That was crazy good.
UNCG and one or two other Greensboro colleges hosted Kendrick Lamar (and joining him, J. Cole) at the Coliseum complex, geared for students. I didn’t see it, but I heard it was a blast. Our university hosted The Lumineers in Cone Ballroom for students just before “Ho, Hey” was broke big. Someone recorded the moment.
Prefer sports? Spartans in the 90s caught a couple of seasons of Derek Jeter playing shortstop for the Greensboro Single A team. (I remember the fielding errors – and his looking pretty smooth.) More recently, Spartans have seen stars like Brian McCann and Bryce Harper play at the stadium a mile away. And remember Giaoncarlo Stanton blasting all those homers? And then there’s basketball. The Kyle Hines vs Stephen Curry match-ups on campus and at the Coliseum. (My sons were impressed by how quickly Curry could get a shot up.) And our PGA tournament, another great deal. The chance to see Tiger Woods, Davis Love III, and other top golfers up-close with my family has made for good memories.
The point is: Greensboro and UNCG offer so much. Every month of every year. And most of it’s relatively low-cost. Or free-admission. You just have to go.
This year’s UCLS has been particularly strong. I am looking forward to what’s in store next year. And speaking of next year, I’ve already bought my tickets for the first opera at the Tanger Center, “Porgy and Bess,” starring UNCG alumna Rhiannon Giddens. I expect it’ll be the big event in our state next spring; it will sell out; I recommend buying your tickets soon.
The Greensboro Bound book festival, all events free-admission, is a few weeks away. The NC Folk Festival, a few months away, is all free-admission. Spartan Cinema again will offer free movies in LeBauer Park, each Friday this summer. (CW will run a story before each of these three begin, spotlighting the UNCG connections.)
And check out the other colleges’ listings too – they offer some great things as well.
If you haven’t seen a UNCG Music performance, check this story out. Haven’t seen a softball or baseball game? You have a few weeks left to do it. UNCG Tennis is great to watch too – you’re very close to the action. There are a few events left in the Sixties series, including the big Grateful Dead weekend and “Man of La Mancha” next month.
Now, I’m going to go see about this Irish dancing. I hear we have a student competing.
By Mike Harris ‘93 MA, Campus Weekly editor