The Return of Live Music and the Stage in Mercer County

Last updated: August 30, 2021

As the saying goes, the show must go on … and after over a year of canceled shows and empty stages, the Chuck Mathena Center (CMC) has reopened its doors to the public. On May 17, CMC announced its 14th season, fittingly named “The Show Must Go On.”  

“This is the season we planned for last year that we never truly got to release,” Executive Director of CMC, Candace Wilson, said. “We lost a few shows, added a few shows, and this is where we ended up.”

The season will consist of live music from Ray On My Mind, Carlene Carter, Triumphant Quartet and more, as well as stage performances from the Missoula Children’s Theatre and the Russian National Ballet. One of the center’s largest events for the season is the second annual Food Truck Frenzy & Festival on June 26. 

“We had about 2,500 people the first year in attendance, and we are expecting it to be on par with that or a little higher because people are trying to come out and do something for the first time,” Wilson says. “And where it is outdoors and there is no mask requirement for that, we are hoping for a big turnout so people can start to feel normal again.’

The festival has already announced its star-studded lineup of Jefferson Starship, Blessid Union of Souls, Prowess and more. Festival-goers will be able to taste-test food truck vendors from all over the state, as well as sample craft and domestic beer. 

While the road to the return of live music and theatre to Mercer County has been difficult, the CMC pivoted in 2020 to support the community in the only way they knew how.

“Being creative people, it was hard for us to not do something because our outlets have always been the concerts, music and the theatre,” Wilson explained. 

Around this time last year, the staff at the CMC purchased equipment to show movies to the community through a grant they received. The first movie premiered on the Fourth of July and collected such positive reactions that the CMC continued showing movies every weekend throughout the summer until Labor Day. 

“We just tried to do something to lift the community’s spirits and to safely let them leave the four walls of their homes,” Wilson says. 

Although the CMC’s summer schedule is fairly booked this year, Wilson hasn’t ruled out a potential family movie night if space opens up. 

Whether it is bringing in a popular touring show or simply screening movies to the community, the core mission of the CMC is to make the arts accessible to people. The center prioritizes writing grants and gaining sponsorships to help keep these creative opportunities affordable for the residents and visitors of Mercer County. 

“It’s important for the quality of life, and it’s important for people’s souls,” Wilson says. “You may come to something you’ve never heard of and that may be your new favorite thing when you leave. You just never know how it’s going to affect you.” 

Discover a new creative outlet during this 2021-2022 season with the CMC. Tickets are available to purchase from the center’s website. As of now, all attendees should be prepared to wear a mask to indoor shows until June 20. 

In addition to the CMC’s upcoming shows, live music across the county is starting back up. The RiffRaff Arts Collective recently announced their First Friday Concerts in the Park series. First Fridays in downtown Princeton is where local businesses celebrate the first Friday of every month. Visitors can enjoy shopping, special deals, family fun and art. This year there will be live music accompanying the festivities. The concerts, featuring performers like Minor Swing, The Carpenter Ants and Cane Mill Road, will take place the first Friday of each month in Dick Copeland Town Square from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.

In addition to their delicious burgers and gourmet cocktails, The RailYard in Bluefield is back with live music. Visit the restaurant’s Facebook page for upcoming performance announcements. Finally, stop by Trail 10 Pub & Grill in Bramwell for live music on the deck! The restaurant’s Facebook page is regularly updated with new gigs. For a full list of summer events, check out our calendar