Venue Variety Is The Spice

Venue Variety Is The Spice

Music lovers gain even more choices

Courtesy of Shiloh Museum of Ozark History/ Frances Deane Alexander Collection (S-2012-137-557)
George Pappas (1881-1966) stands behind cigar counter at Majestic Café — better known as George’s Majestic Lounge — at 519 W. Dickson St., Fayetteville, circa 1930, in this image by W.J. Lemke, photographer.

Be It Resolved

Northwest Arkansas’ music scene is thriving. There lives here a tradition of great local music dating back to the Cate Brothers and Levon Helm, as well as a history of attracting national and even international musicians to experience the unique venues and audience response of the area.

The Past

George’s Majestic Lounge, the iconic bar and live music venue on Dickson Street in Fayetteville, turned 90 this year. One of the oldest and longest running live music venues in the state — and one of the oldest bar and concert venues in the Midwest — George’s Majestic Lounge was opened by George Pappas in 1927 as a restaurant, bar and general store. Many people remember hanging out in the wisteria-covered garden in the back as they watched trains roll by. It was the first bar to integrate in the late 1950s, the first restaurant to provide pizza delivery in Northwest Arkansas and the first bar to have a television that broadcast in color. It was voted one of the best college town bars in the USA, and Consequence of Sound ranked it No. 87 in its list of the 100 greatest music venues in the USA.

George’s is best known for the incredible musicians that have played its two stages — musicians like Robert Cray, Leon Russell, Little River Band, Delbert McClinton, Eddy Money, Tower of Power, CoCo Montoya, Steve Kimock, the Zac Brown Band, Sam Hunt, the Cate Brothers Band. The venue also hosts modern, nationally recognized acts like Fitz & the Tantrum, Animal Collective, LANY, Sturgill Simpson, Cherub, Big Gigantic and more.

The Present

Several venues opening their doors in 2017 also had a successful year with sold-out shows and a showcase of national acts. Uptown Fayetteville gained a hip new outdoor venue in the form of JJ’s Beer Garden and Brewing Co. on North Steele Boulevard, where some 1,200 concertgoers can enjoy live music, patio seating, sand volleyball and lawn games. As with the restaurant’s other locations in Northwest Arkansas (and across the state), JBGB hosts local acts to boost the native music scene. But headliners during the inaugural free summer concert series, with shows every Thursday, included national and regional names like Kelly Pickler, Drake White, Casey Donahew and Aaron Watson.

A bit to the south, the Sunrise Guitars shop at the former Subaru and Honda dealership on College Avenue offers a more intimate setting with the new 100-seat Sunrise Stage. Owner Don Nelms worked with professional sound engineers to build the room’s custom acoustics from the ground up, as well as influencers in the Northwest Arkansas music scene to create a music series that could offer a special connection between the audience and performers.

“This is the first room in Fayetteville that’s built purely as a showcase venue, the first and foremost focus being on good sound,” Darren Novotny with Springdale Acoustics Inc., one of the sound engineers on the project, told What’s Up! in March. “As a result, we’ve done a couple things on stage that you don’t see many places.”

Modeled after the successful Artist, Audience & Community Live! series in Fort Smith, Sunrise hosted a season full of nationally touring and beloved folk, Americana, singer/songwriter and acoustic artists that were a perfect fit for the sound-conscious space.

Even further to the south, another empty building was given fresh life as a renovated live music venue this year — well, part of the building, anyway. The 53,000-square-foot Masonic Temple Building in downtown Fort Smith, built in 1928, features a newly restored auditorium space that can seat nearly 1,200 people. Opened in late summer, Temple Live as it is now called, has already hosted major names Joe Nichols, The Charlie Daniels Band, Dwight Yokam and Willie Nelson.

The Future

The region’s largest music venue and one of the country’s top-selling amphitheaters according to Pollstar, the Walmart Arkansas Music Pavilion in Rogers remains a consistent presenter of huge industry names across genres. Five shows from its coming 13th season have been announced and include a few of the biggest names in modern pop touring today. Following her triumphant return to music and very publicized legal battle with her former producer, pop icon Kesha teams up with rap superstar Macklemore for a tour that guarantees a glittery, celebratory, summer show, stopping at the AMP June 25. Also making his first visit to Rogers is Niall Horan, who became the third former member of British group and international sensation One Direction to release his solo album this year, which debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 Albums chart in October. The AMP is expected to announce one more show for next season before the end of the year, so keep your ear to the ground, music lovers!

— Jocelyn Murphy


Up Next


Ben Miller Band, free show

Dec. 23

Judah & the Lion

Jan. 31




May 17


Sunrise Stage

Andy Mckee

April 5


Temple Live

38 Special

Feb. 3

Comedian Ron White

May 19


Walmart AMP

Brantley Gilbert

April 28

Categories: Music