Music Venues

With the sudden but welcomed arrival of spring comes an earlier concert season. Acts like Chance The Rapper, JoJo and many others are slated to come to some of the venues located in the Hampton Roads region.

These venues provide an energetic environment for everyone, whether an up-and-coming band looking to make its debut or just a music fan.

Many underground artists and events have been held at Shaka’s Live since its inaugural year in 2014. Located at the heart of the Oceanfront on 19th Street, the venue has been the center of many rock fests and other indoor indie festivals and also doubles as a nightclub on weekends. Musicians laud it as the best venue for local artists.

“Shaka’s offers an unprecedented level of quality in house that you simply can’t find anywhere else as a local band. Shaka’s is the best in the area. And they just keep improving,” Give ‘Em Hell Kid Drummer Casey House said.

House added that the sound quality is superior.

“(Shaka’s) mixes amazing sound and lights while learning your songs and stage performance over many shows to fine-tune your sound,” House said.

Shaka’s is also known for its variety of featured artists. Voss Rollins, a local rapper and avid concert attendee, said that they “bring niche artists you don’t usually see in Virginia.”

Some of these artists include rapper Pouya, rockers Mickey Avalon and Squinto and indie bands and musicians such as Joyce Manor.

A mainstay of downtown Norfolk, The NorVa has hosted many of music’s biggest names such as Prince, Snoop Dogg, The Flaming Lips and Evanescence.

Opening as the NorVa at the turn of the new millennium, the stage was christened by the Godfather of Soul, James Brown. In 2013, Rolling Stone Magazine named the music hall No. 16 of the  Best Big Rooms in the nation.

“The NorVa is a good venue because it had a lot of space, and it feels like a venue that could get packed and still have a good vibe,” said local rock singer Ryan Polesko.

Polesko knows just how to maximize his enjoyment during a concert at the venue.

“If you are standing to the right or left of the stage, you are only going to get one kind of sound. The best spot to stand is in the back by the sound panel because you really get a full perspective of the entire concert hall and all the music,” Polesko said.

However, House adds that they aren’t quite helpful to local bands, as well as some of the simple information most concert goers typically like to have.

“They rush you on and off stage without providing even a basic sound check and give you a mediocre sound overall,” House said. “They are extremely unorganized with things like load in times, set times, and any general info like where to park.”

The Veterans United Home Loans Amphitheater, also known as the Virginia Beach Amphitheatre, is another well-known venue for Hampton Roads locals. Many know this venue for its high-profile concerts, with acts like No Doubt, Lil’ Wayne, and even Barack Obama making appearances there.

Locals also will note its many name changes, the latest being the Veterans United Home Loans Amphitheater. It opened in 1996 as the Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre.

It seats 20,000 and has lawn seats for concertgoers outside the main stage seating.

Casey House is a big fan of the Vans annual Warped Tour, saying that it’s “really cool,” but that the cons outweigh the pros.

“For big acts on main stage, I don’t really like sitting down for shows, whether it be on the lawn or the seats,” House said. “The food is better, but more expensive. It’s honestly a totally different experience.”

However, Voss Rollins says that the lawn seating is probably the best part of the venue, along with Shaggfest, a locally-run music festival.

At the heart of downtown Norfolk, the Norfolk Scope has been a mainstay for all events, including Norfolk Admirals hockey games, the International Tattoo Festival, and many concerts with guests like The Jackson Five and Trey Songz.

It was built in 1971 and designed by architect Pier Luigi Nervi, who unknowingly created the world’s largest reinforced thin-shell concrete dome. It also is home to an in-house restaurant, Showcase Restaurant.

Though Rollins can’t explain why he likes the venue so much, he summed it up with, “It serves its purpose.”

Polesko is not too fond of the venue. “[There are] too many people and the experience is not as personal,” he said.

Chris Battle