Tucked behind Crowell, the exterior of the Duke Coffeehouse is entirely inconspicuous. There’s even a sign denoting it “the best-kept secret on East Campus.” Inside, however, the space is all but subtle, the walls adorned with UFOs, dragons, giant cartoon faces and a dozen anthropomorphized waffles, all rendered in nearly garish hues. Other than its outre appearance, the Coffeehouse is also notable as a venue, offering a wide range of musical shows and cultural events unlike anything else found on Duke’s campus.
The line-up for the Fall semester includes shows by a variety of artists.
“I try to find very recent music and bands that are currently touring,” said Lauren Feilich, a senior, Coffeehouse booking manager and former Recess editor.
Her other goal when finding shows is to maintain a balance with respect to both genre of music and the backgrounds of the artists. This semester’s schedule includes some punk, some folk, and some world music shows. Highlights include performances by Hemlines, Willis Earl Beal and Girlpool.
The music season kicks off Sept. 24, with a performance by Hemlines, a self-defined "feminist punk” band from Washington, D.C. Despite the members’ varied musical backgrounds, Hemlines is very recognizably punk, marked with angry lyrics, heavy bass and strong rhythms. The other band performing that night is local band Patois Counselors, a post-punk group from Charlotte, N.C. Patois Counselors will also be playing at the upcoming Hopscotch Music Festival, Sept. 10 to 12 in Raleigh.
Coffeehouse General Manager Sharrin Manor, a senior, said that she’s excited about starting the semester right with this performance.
“First show of the semester, and it’s going to be these indie rock punk bands," she said. "It’s going to be awesome and fun, and it’ll be good to see everyone coming out.”
Willis Earl Beal will be performing Oct. 8. His musical style can be described as experimental, with clear gospel, folk and R&B influences. He’s also notable for his ideas about the nature of music and spirituality, specifically the movement the Church of Nothing, which challenges traditional ideas of culture, freedom and organized religion. He incorporates his ideology and emotions into his music, supported by the expressiveness of his voice.
Girlpool is scheduled to perform Nov. 12, along with Alex G and Eskimeaux. Girlpool is a Philadelphia-based duo whose full-length debut album came out earlier this year. Though varyingly classified as punk or garage rock, they reject traditional labels of their music, preferring to think of it as informed by their personal experiences and community. Their style is very simple, with one of them on guitar and the other on bass, and their lyrics feel simplistic as well, relating mundane details of everyday life. Their substance, however, is evidenced in the emotional weight their songs carry and the responses they evoke in their audiences.
Despite this exciting array of musical talent, the appeal of the Coffeehouse is not limited to music shows. At 8 p.m. Sept. 14, it will be hosting a screening of Jia Zhang-Ke’s "Useless," a film that provides a thought-provoking look at the fashion and clothing industries in China and the ways in which economic development is affecting the people of the country. There will be an introduction ahead of time and a discussion following.
For something completely different, there will be a spooky dance party Oct. 28.
“It’s going to be sick," Manor said. "We’ll have an actual DJ and everyone’s going to be dressed up in costume and it’ll be really cool.”
Although it is located on Duke’s campus, the Coffeehouse is an intersection of the Duke and Durham communities. Most events are free with a Duke ID, but students are not the only ones who attend the shows.
“It’s a great opportunity to meet people from the community or like-minded music fans,” Feilich said.
She also said that she hopes people will view the venue as a “comfortable, judgement-free, fun space.”
“It’s a great place for students to hang out and experience a vibe that’s way different from anything else,” Manor said.
Feilich said it’s a “place to be a weirdo.”
The full schedule of shows and events will be available soon on the Coffeehouse website and Facebook page.
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