Around Town: Walking tour highlights Asheville’s eclectic music history

SOULFUL STROLL: Alli Marshall's new walking tour will take people on a musical journey through downtown Asheville. "I’m interested in how the history of the local music scene got us to where we are now, as a creative culture," she says. Photo by Ryan Glass

Asheville is known for its history of bluegrass, country, folk and other forms of mountain music. The city’s legacy, though, goes well beyond that, says Alli Marshall.

“People are surprised about the eclecticism of Asheville’s music scene — how many genres are represented,” says Marshall, former Arts & Entertainment editor for Xpress. “But that’s always been the case. For more than a century, Asheville has been at the intersection of innovation and sophistication as well as deep-seated tradition.”

Marshall recently started the Asheville Music History Walking Tour, which explores downtown through the stories of bands, musicians, culture and more. The 90-minute, 1.5-mile stroll works its way through such areas as Lexington Avenue and The Block and stops by the Moogseum, Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center and The Orange Peel.

The tour, which Marshall hopes to offer five times a week, spans the 1870s to the present and touches on the area’s Scots-Irish roots, as well as rock, blues, electronic, hip-hop and experimental sounds.

“I love highlighting the R&B, funk and soul scene from the ’60s and ’70s, as well as the Stephens-Lee High School marching band,” she says. “I also mix in some 1990s and early 2000s history, such as the legendary Vincent’s Ear and Be Here Now.”

The tour is a multimedia experience, with historic photos, flyers and a soundtrack in the form of a Spotify playlist.

Marshall has long been interested in the area’s musical heritage and was inspired to start the tour by her friend Anna Helgeson, who offers a walking tour of the Asheville arts and crafts scene and another of the Montford neighborhood.

The Asheville Music History Walking Tour is offered through Airbnb Experiences and costs $24 per person. For more information or to book a tour, go to

O Tannenbaum

When Mike Rangel was looking to create a family-friendly holiday event for Rabbit Rabbit, a friend mentioned Tinsel Trail, a Huntsville, Ala., tradition for more than a decade.

“We did a little research and we thought it would work perfectly for our downtown event,” says Rangel, co-owner of the outdoor performance venue operated by Asheville Brewing Co. and The Orange Peel.

Rabbit Rabbit will present Winter Tree Carnival Tuesday, Nov. 16-Sunday, Jan. 2, 3-9 p.m. The event will be closed on Mondays, Thanksgiving and Christmas.

The carnival will feature at least 60 holiday trees adopted and decorated by local businesses, community groups and nonprofits. Depending on interest, there could be as many as 120 trees on display, Rangel says.

Along with the trees, Rabbit Rabbit will show Christmas movies such as Elf and Home Alone and will host a visit (or two) from Kris Kringle himself. The venue also plans to have an on-site pop-up market featuring local vendors, a holiday drink menu and newly released craft beers.

Organizations can adopt and decorate a tree for $300. A second option is to adopt two trees at $600, with the second going to the purchaser’s nonprofit of choice. Organizers will donate proceeds from the adoption fees to MANNA FoodBank and will also encourage attendees to bring canned food donations.

“We’ve worked with and supported them for years,” Rangel says of the food bank. “Their impact is needed now more than ever, and they were the first nonprofit we thought of asking to partner with.”

Rabbit Rabbit is at 75 Coxe Ave. For more information or to reserve a tree, visit

Party like it’s 1929

The Magnetic Theatre is partnering with Speakeasy Improv to host The Speakeasy Soirée, a 1920s-themed party, Friday-Saturday, Nov. 12-13, at 7:30 p.m.

Friday night will feature stand-up comedy from Asheville-based Morgan Bost, improv duo Brothers Grimmprov and an extended set starring several local improv teachers and performers. Two Charlotte acts, stand-up comedian Don Garrett and improv troupe Now Are the Foxes, will take the stage on Saturday, as will local improv group Reasonably Priced Babies.

The two-night event also will include raffles, prizes and a costume competition (fedoras and flapper dresses encouraged).

“This is one of our biggest performances to date, so we really wanted to throw a big party for everyone in the local performing arts community,” says Tim Hearn, Speakeasy Improv instructor. “And who doesn’t love a good costume party?”

Speakeasy Improv offers a series of classes on the art of improvisational comedy.

“We are a new school, and hopefully this will let people interested in improv join in on the party,” Hearn says. “Our goal for next year is to have a larger comedy festival with troupes, comics and acts bringing entertainment from all over the country.”

The Magnetic Theatre is at 375 Depot St. Tickets are $15 per night and can be purchased at

Speaking words of wisdom

As Beatlemaniacs eagerly anticipate the release of Peter Jackson’s three-part The Beatles: Get Back documentary on Disney+, Asheville music journalist Bill Kopp offers an appetizer through an evening of unreleased music from The Fab Four.

Kopp presents Getting Back to The Beatles: Two Weeks in January ’69, at Citizen Vinyl on Thursday, Nov. 11, at 7 p.m. Drawing from his extensive collection, Kopp will share rehearsal recordings of the band during the sessions that eventually led to the 1970 album Let It Be.

The presentation will also include recordings that the band worked on prior to its 1970 breakup. Some of these tunes ultimately went on solo albums by John Lennon, Paul McCartney and George Harrison. Last, Kopp says the program will include several songs that were never released in any form.

Kopp will be joined by local musician and artist Rich Nelson of the Rich Nelson Band.

Citizen Vinyl is at 14 O. Henry Ave. For more information or to get tickets, go to

Family affair

No sibling rivalry here.

First Congregational United Church of Christ’s Oak Street Gallery will host artworks by Jenny Pickens through the end of November; meanwhile, the YMI Cultural Center’s gallery will exhibit All Things Found in WNC, photographs by her brother, Richard Pickens.

Jenny Pickens’ paintings are predominately acrylics and mixed media. Also on display will be her hand-built pottery, jewelry from repurposed materials and handcrafted dolls using new and sentimental fabrics. Pickens will be at the Oak Street Gallery on Saturday, Nov. 20, 3-6 p.m.

Richard Pickens’ exhibit will include photographs of landscapes, plants, street art, sunrises and sunsets, old barns and silos.

“I see the vision of art in everything,” says Richard. “The real passion is capturing the moments of life in their true settings and natural forms via photography.”

The Jenny Pickens show at First Congregational UCC’s Oak Street Gallery, ​20 Oak St., will be open to the public  Sunday, Nov. 14, Sunday, Nov. 21, and Sunday, Nov. 28,  from 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. and Tuesday, Nov. 16, and Tuesday, Nov. 30, from 3-6 p.m. The Richard Pickens show at the YMI Cultural Center, 20-44 Eagle St., is open Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-4 p.m. through Tuesday, Nov. 30. 

Here for the drama

Warren Wilson Theatre presents Branden Jacobs-Jenkins’ family drama Appropriate Friday-Saturday, Nov. 12-13, at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, Nov. 14, at 2:30 p.m. at Kittredge Theatre.

The play explores the story of a troubled Arkansas family reunited by the death of the patriarch. The siblings must confront both their resentment toward each other and the disturbing artifacts found among their father’s things.

Some of the content of the play touches on racial violence and has caused controversy on the campus, with some students attempting to discourage participation in the production, according to director Candace Taylor.

Appropriate is intended to make you uncomfortable and was chosen for that reason — to cause understanding and empathy, and very possibly, change,” she says in a press release. “Personally, I think this campus is brave enough to face one small story of our American history.”

Warren Wilson Theatre will be hosting talkbacks with the actors after every performance.

Kittredge Theatre is at 701 Warren Wilson Road, Swannanoa. Tickets are $10. For more information or to get tickets, visit

Rock the house

Jubilee! Community church will host Drum and Dance with Bolokada Conde & Friends on Friday, Nov. 12, at 7:30 p.m.

Conde, a djembe master, will explore the rhythms of Guinea with a variety of percussion instruments. He will be joined by several local Asheville musicians.

Jubilee! Community church is at 46 Wall St. Tickets are $20. For more information, visit


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About Justin McGuire
Justin McGuire is a UNC Chapel Hill graduate with more than 30 years of experience as a writer and editor. His work has appeared in The Sporting News, the (Rock Hill, SC) Herald and various other publications. Follow me @jmcguireMLB

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