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Thursday October 28th

Looking into the Chapel Hill-Carrboro music scene over the decade

Kevin Thomas poses for a portrait in front of Local 506 in Chapel Hill, N.C. on Nov. 26, 2019.
Buy Photos Kevin Thomas poses for a portrait in front of Local 506 in Chapel Hill, N.C. on Nov. 26, 2019.

Between Lil Yachty, Hippo Campus, Psychedelic Furs, The Dip, Yung Gravy, Quinn XCII and Skizzy Mars, it's clear that a variety of musical artists have come to local venues over the last decade.

But the Chapel Hill-Carrboro area has much more to explore than big names when it comes to music. 

Carrboro is home to different music bars, including 2nd Wind. Zane James is the general manager and he has been involved with the bar for approximately two years.

“The local music scene is a very tight-knit community,” James said. “That’s how we get a lot of local acts. They’re all kind of in the same scene, they hang out together, they know who is looking for shows when.”

James said 2nd Wind brings a variety of music, and when bands are traveling up and down the East Coast, it is usually a stop on their way to a bigger venue. 

“We take all kinds of acts as far as music goes,” James said. “Acoustically we aim for more jazz, blues, kind of indie feel. (We) focus a lot on Americana, folk, blues and jazz.” 

Between Chapel Hill and Carrboro, there is an array of hotspots for music in the area. People that walk down the street may have the opportunity to hear something they like from different performance spots and listen to music that may be new to them. 

James said 2nd Wind has music almost every night of the week, along with Weaver Street Market's Music on the Lawn, and other places like The Station and Cat’s Cradle also consistently have a variety of shows. 

“It’s just so accessible,” James said. “There’s music everywhere in this town almost all the time. You can just walk down main street in Carrboro until you hear something you like and just stop in.”

Not far from 2nd Wind, Kevin ‘Kaze’ Thomas is a co-owner of the music bar Local 506.

“It’s open to all types of music,” Thomas said. “The tradition of it is based around the diversity. Many early artists, J. Cole, Arcade Fire, The Avett Brothers etc. started there in their early careers. 506 was the opportunity created for them to get themselves off the ground.” 

But Thomas’ involvement in the local music scene started with other projects before his position at Local 506. In 2017, he co-founded a local production company known as VibeHouse 405. 

“I’m able to provide a platform for a band of kids in college that are doing their thing,” Thomas said. “It was a beautiful situation for me, an opportunity to have a venue connected to the energy of what I’m doing working with young artists.”  

It may be difficult to decide a genre that represents the sound of Chapel Hill, but there are trends in the music that have emerged over the years.

“There’s a tradition of music that’s in this town,” Thomas said. “You can see it throughout history. There’s a tradition of the indie spirit. The indie rock spirit, the indie punk spirit, the indie hip-hop spirit, the indie folk spirit.” 

Thomas said you can find all kinds of styles that are very different but also show similarities that reflect the intimacy of the community. 

“It’s a place where cats can come to rap on Franklin Street, or play heavy metal, or folk or funk or whatever it is they do right there on 'Broadway,'” Thomas said.

For Thomas, the diversity of the local music scene was what sparked his creative outlet. 

“When I got up here I was really eager and anxious to get involved in music and art and start figuring that out for myself because we didn’t have that where I was from,” Thomas said. “That was really the beginning of Chapel Hill being a creative home for me — a creative birthplace for me.”

Thomas said it was his goal to to work as a mentor to help their careers as musicians.

“The music scene has taken off a lot since I’ve been at UNC,” said Shane Stephens, one of the guitarists and singers of local band The Northbounds. “Almost every weekend there’s something unique.”

The Northbounds play both covers and original music, and they will be debuting new material at their upcoming show on Dec. 13th at The Cave. 

"The more music you have, the more variety of people you have,” James said. “It’s going to be more eclectic and more diverse by nature of that. In a community like Carrboro where everybody is accepting, you have the ability to experiment and really develop music in a different way that has been seen in the past where you have to go the acceptable route and you play what’s popular at the time and that’s how you do well as a band."

Chapel Hill is also home to another music group: JULIA. Todd Davis, the drummer, said he has enjoyed seeing familiar faces in the music community throughout his time as a student, performer and audience member. 

“It’s pretty interesting to see how people really stick to it over the years, even if their music style changes,” Davis said. “There will always be music here.” 

JULIA. is currently working on their first album. Davis said they expect its release to be in early 2020. 

“It’s that attitude and energy of authenticity that I’ve seen in Chapel Hill artists here,” Thomas said. “It’s all music, it’s all based around creativity.”


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