Music in the Innovation Quarter

9 minute read

Devon Gilfillian, holding a guitar, performs at the 2019 Gears & Guitars Festival.
Here’s where to listen to live music in and around the iQ.

The Innovation Quarter is alive with the sound of music!

In and around the Innovation Quarter, you’ll find striking public art on our walls, a luscious green space at our center and restored history in the factories and buildings to your left and right. But what can you hear? What does our community sound like?

While we’re always working to educate and innovate around here, we also strive to integrate arts and culture into our community. That effort includes creating a soundscape that provides everyone with an opportunity to experience the joy of music, whether that means relaxing, singing, dancing or simply listening. 

Here’s where you can listen to live music in and around the iQ:

1. Gears & Guitars Music Festival

Stage of Gears & Guitar Festival with crowd standing in front of it.

The Gears & Guitars Music Festival is the biggest party on two wheels to hit Winston-Salem. This outdoor festival is held in conjunction with the Winston-Salem Cycling Classic and welcomes music lovers and cycling enthusiasts alike to Bailey Park for shows with nationally recognized recording artists.

After a Covid hiatus in 2020, the fifth annual festival will return this week—from September 24-26, 2021—and will feature acts like Grace Potter, Gov’t Mule, The Smithereens, Ida Mae, Devon Gilfillian and more.

So, after spending the weekend spectating the Winston-Salem Cycling Classic, one of the country’s most prestigious professional cycling events, the 2021 USA CRITS series final and the International Crit Challenge, make a night of it by heading to the Innovation Quarter to experience the city’s only music festival.


The 2021 Winston-Salem Cycling Classic and Gears & Guitars Festival are taking COVID-19 safety precautions in line with the state of North Carolina and the city of Winston-Salem, including 1) Strongly encouraging vaccination for all in attendance. 2) Encouraging social distancing whenever possible and masks when not possible. 3) Requiring all to wear masks while indoors, except for brief periods of drinking and eating. 4) Screening temperatures at ticket collection sites before admission. 5) Providing disposable masks and hand sanitizer stations. 6) Recommending all who do not feel well stay at home.

2. Coal Pit Live

Crowd enjoys listening to live music at Coal Pit Live with stage in background.
Coal Pit Live in the Coal Pit at Bailey Power Plant

Coal Pit Live, a music series held in the Coal Pit at Bailey Power Plant, was a concept cultivated from the success of Gears & Guitars and Incendiary Brewing Company’s live shows in the Coal Pit. 

Sponsors like Mercedes-Benz of Winston-Salem, Wexford Science & Technology, Front Street Capital, Great One clothing company and Grubb Street Properties help make this series great by supporting local musicians and bringing in stars and tourists from outside the area.

Ray Boden, managing director of Coal Pit Live and director of Gears & Guitars, calls the series a “sister event” to the festival and considers the Innovation Quarter the perfect location for this harmonious affair. He explains, “We feel lucky to call the Coal Pit and the Innovation Quarter home. It’s the center of our community and a natural location for live music. Coal Pit Live and the local music community can make Winston-Salem the music capital of the region.”

Cowboy Mouth performing “Jenny Says” at Coal Pit Live.
“The mission of Coal Pit Live is to bring great entertainment to our community, creating an atmosphere for fun and fellowship across the local music industry. Our sponsors and partners, along with the City of Winston-Salem itself, graciously support us.”
—Ray Boden, managing director of Coal Pit Live

This event comes with challenges for Boden and his partners, the owners of Incendiary Brewing Company. Their small crew prepares for each show themselves, including building and breaking down the stages. They have also acquired all the equipment necessary to make live music sound good.

Excitedly, as the series flourishes, they’ve also been in demand as a traveling show—holding events in cities like Boone and Charlotte. They hope Coal Pit Live will soon evolve into a resource for fans, musicians and music venues alike, all based right here in the Innovation Quarter.

Cracker performing “Teen Angst (What the World Needs Now)” at Coal Pit Live.

Check out Coal Pit Live’s upcoming schedule, which includes shows with Cracker, Gin Blossoms and Lucero with Morgan Wade, with many local bands sprinkled throughout the season. This Halloween, they are partnering with Twin City Track Club for a twilight run that starts and ends at Bailey Park and will culminate with a menacing night filled with the sounds of Van Halen and Mötley Crüe cover bands. 

3. Karaoke at Fair Witness Fancy Drinks

Storefront of Fair Witness Fancy Drinks in Innovation Quarter with people sitting outside at tables.

Fair Witness Fancy Drinks is our neighborhood cocktail bar, located right across from Bailey Park. They serve up sophisticated concoctions crafted from local herbs, fruits, vegetables and other unexpected yet delightful ingredients. And on Sundays, Fair Witness adds a dash of music to the brew.

Fair Witness hosts World Fantasy Karaoke every other Sunday from 7-11 pm on an outdoor patio at the corner of Patterson and 4th Street. They have it all: a modest PA, hand-built microphones, tolerant neighbors, a laptop. You just bring the will to sing loudly at anyone walking by.

Man playing guitar at night with crowd listening to his music on sidewalk outside of Fair Witness.

Recently, they hosted a block party and held the World Fantasy Karaoke championship, where they gave away a 1991 Yamaha 650 Waverunner LX to the winner, among other prizes. The event also featured five artists from around the country, a pie-eating contest, and fully-dressed adults eating Cugino Forno pizza in a kiddie pool—for no discernible reason. How’s that for a good time?

They are already on the prowl for another grand prize jet ski and plan to host another contest soon. So, if you have ever wanted to spend an evening serenading passersby, check out their Instagram page @fairwitnessfancydrinks for event details.

4. Juneteenth Festival

woman singing on stage at bailey park during juneteenth festival

Juneteenth is the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the end of slavery in the United States.

Winston-Salem’s celebration of this pivotal moment in American history takes place in the Innovation Quarter with a full lineup of events, including rich African American cultural traditions like African dance and music.

This newly recognized federal holiday celebrates Black culture, history and life, bringing people from across the entire country together to honor those who fought and continue to fight for equal rights and privileges.

Juneteeth is also an opportunity to support, appreciate and educate through various activities, including freedom of expression—which often occurs through the art of music.

As a way to rejoice, mourn or call for change, music is an essential part of Juneteenth celebrations—and just one example of Black genius that has influenced, inspired and transformed all forms of music and culture in the United States and the entire world.

Check out photos from the 2021 Juneteenth Festival.

4. Entertainment at Food Truck Friday

Man plays guitar on stage at Bailey Park during Food Truck Friday.

In 2019, the Innovation Quarter started providing live entertainment during Food Truck Friday, an iQ Signature Event, to encourage attendees to remain in the Innovation Quarter to socialize and relax while enjoying lunch.

When the Innovation Quarter property management team books entertainment for iQ events, their goal is always diversity. They strive to bring an assorted mix of genres and entertainers to our family-friendly environment—from bands to solo artists, DJs, and dancing groups.

“Over the years, we have learned that music always needs to be a part of our tenant events, even if it is just through a Spotify playlist. Music helps people let loose and enjoy themselves, which is what we strive for at every event.”
—Damiqa Golden, event manager at Cushman & Wakefield

So that Food Truck Fridays aren’t a stop-and-go event, live music is a great way to entertain while bringing together a community of food enthusiasts or passersby. Some lunch-goers will jump up to sing and dance to the music, while others find FTF’s soundtrack a fun way to begin the weekend. 

Two women sing music on stage at Bailey Park during Food Truck Friday.

Damiqa Golden reminisces, “When I first heard that my colleague booked a band called Sheila’s Traveling Circus for Food Truck Friday, I was so intrigued. I mean, the name alone sounds incredible, and who would not be interested? They performed the first year that we had this signature event and were terrific. We received such great feedback, and people were so engaged. They came out again this past month and brought that same kind of energy.”

If you’re interested in providing music at an Innovation Quarter event, send an email to

5. Live Music at Radar Brewing Company

Joy Rivers of Souljam performs music on stage at Radar Brewing.
Joy Rivers of Souljam.

Just down the road in Industry Hill, a historic neighborhood encompassing the northern edge of Winston-Salem’s downtown, you’ll find our city’s newest brewery. Radar Brewing Company may have opened their doors a month before Covid hit, but they’ve never stopped grooving, despite a challenging inaugural year.

Radar features a rotating selection of beer, wine and cider in a modern and inviting taproom. They also have an expansive outdoor beer garden that is the perfect stage for live music. Since August 2020, they’ve booked artists that span every genre. The music is always energetic, and the talent is always top-notch.

A lineup of stellar bands from the Triad and beyond play on select Thursday nights from 7-9 pm and select Friday and Saturday nights from 7:30-10:30. Shows are free and food trucks are often onsite, so you’ll want to get here early to grab a table for friends, family—or your pet!

Crowd sitting at table outside of Radar Brewing listening to live music.

Learn more about community gatherings and events in the Innovation Quarter on our calendar, including our ongoing signature events: Innovation & Cinema, Fitness Fridays, Sunset Salutations, Food Truck Fridays and iQ Community Bike Rides.