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Duke Coffeehouse's Brickside Music Festival aims to educate, entertain

Electronic musician Laurel Halo, pictured in 2015, is one of the artists featured in the lineup of Duke Coffeehouse and WXDU's Brickside Music Festival April 7.
Electronic musician Laurel Halo, pictured in 2015, is one of the artists featured in the lineup of Duke Coffeehouse and WXDU's Brickside Music Festival April 7.

On April 7, the Duke Coffeehouse will open its doors at 1:30 p.m., four and a half hours before its usual Saturday opening time. From 2 p.m. to 2 a.m., a continuous stream of artists will perform as part of the annual Brickside Music Festival, the Coffeehouse’s biggest event of the year, hosted in collaboration with the campus radio station WXDU.

The lineup this year includes artists from a variety of different genres, including hip-hop, Americana and electronic music. Junior Zoe Abedon, general manager of Duke Coffeehouse and former general manager of WXDU, said the festival also aims to incorporate local artists. Ahleuchatistas, for instance, is an instrumental math rock duo from Asheville, N.C., which is also home to Tashi Dorji and Sarah Louise. Other local artists include Professor Toon and Treee City, who live right here in Durham, and de Fontaine from Carrboro.

Other artists in the lineup include Laurel Halo, Bill Orcutt and Xiu Xiu. Unlike other music festivals, Brickside is looking not as much for a big headliner as for groups that many people have not been exposed to before.

“We’ve got a couple bands that people might know, but we’ve got a couple that are new for me even,” said senior Wesley Caretto, former general manager of Duke Coffeehouse. “So really we want to expose people to new sounds. They might find a new favorite band, you know?”

Junior Evan Morgan, booking manager at Duke Coffeehouse, said the process was fun and rewarding but also stressful. He started sending emails to artists for Brickside in early September and has had to plan the festival along with the multitude of smaller shows at the Coffeehouse; there will be a total of 14 other single-act shows this semester. While Morgan has wanted to manage booking since he started working at the Coffeehouse in his first year, he said it was more difficult than he expected.

“Every single contract is a completely different story in terms of how easy it is to get the artist to sign and sign correctly,” Morgan said. “If one thing’s off, it gets sent back to me and I have to send it back to the artist.”

This year, Morgan hoped to create more cohesion between the artists than previous years so that people would stay at the festival beyond the specific artist they came to see. That way, people would gain exposure to new artists, whether they intended to or not.

However, he still wanted to keep the usual diversity in genre that Brickside is known for. The common thread this year is experimental and underground music, which Morgan said has a big following in the Triangle region.

Along with the concerts inside, Brickside will feature vendors, free pizza and an open mic outdoors in the parking lot. Abedon and Caretto both called the Coffeehouse space “intimate,” differentiating Brickside from many other music festivals, where acts would be distributed across multiple stages in a wider area. The cost is also notably lower than other festivals, at $15 for Duke students and $20 for community members.

“Even if you’ve never been to Coffeehouse before, you’re not familiar with the space, Brickside is a really cool way to experience it for the first time,” Abedon said. “I encourage everyone to come out, even if they don’t know any of the artists. We curate this to be fun and educational for everyone.”

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