Duke Coffeehouse is a nondescript brick structure located discreetly on East Campus and nestled among green cubes of grass, patches of trees and the more stately looking buildings for which Duke University is known.
Hidden within is a storied past, kept behind its walls of eclectic murals depicting flying saucers, aliens and fantastical creatures. Who could forget the mayhem last decade when local nut-jobs Pine State turned the place into a piece of conceptual art, filling the room with assorted detritus, at a WXDU event? The Coffeehouse hosted the humble early days of local musicians who would go far, like Superchunk and Archers of Loaf, and traveling bands like Guided By Voices, Royal Trux and Beck.
Though it's an institution, it hasn't been as active a venue in recent years. But that's changing fast. Brian Crews, program coordinator with the Office of Student Activities and Facilities, told the Indy he believes with new structural changes and organization at the venue, the Coffeehouse is returning to its former glory. "Since I came to Duke in September, I was told from the administration's and students' point of view, that they all saw the Coffeehouse as a valuable programming space on East Campus. They just wanted it to be run better. After some initial concern, the Union assured everyone of their intentions, and many of the old Coffeehouse workers came back and have played a valuable role in getting the Coffeehouse off the ground. Due to my position as advisor for the Coffeehouse and WXDU, I think that that relationship will be a strong one with great shows and great support of/for each other."
The space itself has been spiffed up substantially. Crews adds: "We bought lots of new microphones and a new equalizer for the system. We had some help from Chris Chamis [of the Music Loft] and John Koelle [of North State Sound] in getting the sound equipment running nicely. We have that big light rig that we are working on getting fixed up, but we added a few basic canister lights to get us through the concerts." The room is now outfitted with new furniture, fixtures, coffee equipment from Counter Culture, and decor. The enigmatic murals of aliens remain.
The music, not hot coffee, warms things up here. Coffeehouse student manager Andy Kay is working with input from members of the WXDU community, including station manager Quynh-Nhu Tran, booking a solid selection of artists. Kay says: "We have gone on a frenzy of booking over the past few months, getting groups such as The Wrens and VHS or Beta to come down. I have been drawing on my personal taste, as well Brian's and people at WXDU." The quality of live sound is amped up a few pegs, too. "The sound system is awesome. The space has the same character and feel to it, and these renovations will provide years of a great atmosphere."
Visit the Coffeehouse's Web site for their event schedule: www.duke.edu/web/coffeehouse.
Sit-n-Spin label keeps on spinning
Chapel Hill label Sit-n-Spin forges on with some forthcoming local releases on both vinyl and CD. Look for a seven-inch record from the low-slung ruminations of Cub Country and a split single between aggro-artisans The Nein and the scatter-and-smother attack of Cantwell, Gomez and Jordan. An EP from Hotel Lights, the most recent project of Darren Jessee, former Ben Folds Five drummer, is also in the works. Keep track at home: www.sit-n-spinrecords.com.