By any measure, the Duke Coffeehouse isn’t one of the more popular spots for students on campus. Tucked away in the farther reaches of Duke’s East Campus (it’s located in the back of Crowell), the Coffeehouse has a reputation for “doing things differently,” perhaps a bit more eccentrically. If you’re looking to stop in for a quick latte or find a study space in between classes, you should probably head to Trinity Café or Vondy—the Coffeehouse, which opens at 6 p.m., is all at once a venue for live music, a space for Duke students and Durham residents alike and a spot to intimately experience art. Rarely do Coffeehouse-goers actually drink coffee or stress over work.
Last Saturday, the Duke Coffeehouse orchestrated its biggest musical event of the school year in collaboration with Duke’s radio station, WXDU: Brickside Music Festival, a celebration of eclectic music that originated in 2012. In line with the Coffeehouse’s endearingly unconventional atmosphere and patrons, Brickside featured a line-up of artists that was experimental and wide-ranging.
“It’s a really weird, kind of congruous line-up that makes us hope people will come for one act and be curious enough to stay around for the rest,” admitted sophomore Evan Morgan, an employee at the Duke Coffeehouse.
Indeed, weird might be the most apt way to describe the eight artists who played at Brickside, which lasted from roughly 2 p.m. to 2 a.m. There were black metal bands, such as Paint Fumes, MAKE and Aevangelist; electronic artists like Via App, Just The Right Height and Shlohmo; rapper Open Mike Eagle; and guitarist Sarah Louise, who describes her music as “nature-inspired guitar composition” on her Facebook page.
“We tried to be very open-minded with what type of audience we were trying to cater to. We wanted to leave everyone with a little bit of something and also expose them to new things,” said junior Jason Calixto, who works as the booking manager at the Duke Coffeehouse.
The diverse and avant-garde mix of musicians might seem disjointed on its surface, but all of the performances were united under the fact that they pushed the envelope of whatever musical genre they found themselves in. Nowhere in Brickside’s line-up were artists that would be considered mainstream by any merit, and perhaps that’s one of the enduring charms of the music festival. You can find popular artists such as Lil Jon, Daya and Tory Lanez easily on the radio or on Spotify, but Brickside aims to expose you to musicians you probably wouldn’t listen to on a regular basis.
“Having such a large event puts Duke students in the Coffeehouse and lets them encounter things they’ve never heard before,” Morgan noted. “None of these acts would find a space at any other Duke-sponsored event. There’s not a lot of musical diversity among the artists that are booked for LDOC or Campus Concerts, so that sets Brickside apart as something really special.”
Sophomore Lexi Bateman, who was in attendance at Brickside, also noted that the music festival benefitted from its relationship with the Coffeehouse.
“An advantage of Brickside being put on by the Coffeehouse is that they get to use the Coffeehouse’s space, which is really cool,” Bateman said. “It’s a really inviting environment and the sound is amazing–better than it is at a lot of local music venues. I also think that the Coffeehouse has better music hook-ups because of its crossover with WXDU.”
Brickside also provided an opportunity for Duke students to engage with the Coffeehouse as both a social spot and a music venue, a bit more accessible than the majority of the shows put on by the venue. Most students filtered in and out of the Coffeehouse throughout the day or stopped by at the end of the night for the headliners—but there was always a consistent Duke presence, a testament to the approachability and draw of the music festival.
“Many Coffeehouse shows normally don’t end up drawing that big of a Duke crowd—there’s always more community members—but at Brickside, there are more Duke students who tend to come through,” Morgan noted.
“The community involvement is absolutely wonderful and we do want to make it more of an open community event, but at the same time we don’t want to forget the fact that we are a student-based organization and we are catering to the student body,” Calixto said.
In all, Brickside was an incredibly fun music festival, with plenty of food, good tunes and art to satisfy even the most casual of music-listeners. While some Duke students might’ve not enjoyed all of the acts or found them to be a bit esoteric, it was still an exciting opportunity to engage with music and artists that’s certainly unmatched anywhere else on Duke’s campus.
“[The Coffeehouse is] a Duke institution, we’re here for the students before anything,” Calixto surmised. “It really just gets down to trying to expose students to different kinds of music.”
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