Dozens of musicians have and will continue to perform at locations along Franklin Street as part of Downtown Live, a free outdoor concert series hosted by the Chapel Hill Downtown Partnership.
The annual series began on March 25, and events will occur every Saturday and on the second Friday of each month throughout the spring.
"It's outside. It's on the street. It's free," Jerri Lynn Schulke, the director of arts and culture for the CHDP, said.
Downtown Live aims to highlight local artists and brings live music directly to the community.
Musicians participating in the series perform outside of Epilogue Books Chocolate Brews, Roots Natural Kitchen and Talulla’s for passersby to enjoy.
Schulke said the original purpose of the concert series was to bring people downtown during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“People were outside, people were coming to support businesses and it was just another way to do something that would draw people downtown,” she said.
Schulke said the CHDP is working to broaden the type of music played at events like Downtown Live and provide local musicians with more opportunities now that many pandemic restrictions have been lifted.
Andrew Kasab, a harp guitarist, performed on April 1 and March 25 as part of the series.
Standing outside of Epilogue, he said he is familiar with playing gigs similar to Downtown Live but appreciates the atmosphere and student community of Chapel Hill.
“It's a very strong university town that really lends to it where there's already a lot of curiosity built in," he said. "People are here to learn, they’re here to open their minds, and when they see new things that are artistic on the street, they're totally open to it.”
Kasab, who has been playing live music since he was 13, said he has traveled nationally to perform. However, he enjoys Chapel Hill because of the CHDP and local businesses placing performers of all different genres and sounds throughout focal points in the town.
“They're fostering people to come around, and then not just necessarily go to one specific place, but to travel around, and all of a sudden you see a whole bevy of people playing which is great,” he said.
Andrew Whiteman, a recording artist who grew up in Raleigh, enjoys bringing his country-folk music to Chapel Hill and playing for Downtown Live. He performed as part of the series on March 25.
“Just being out in Chapel Hill, there's always people walking by, you really feel like you're in the middle of everything,” he said. “You get to interact with people more than having an audience because people are right there and stop by to say hello, or they ask you a bit about your music or ask for a song request. It's a nice difference to your traditional concert or background music at a brewery or a bar.”
Ella Parker, a computer science student at UNC, stood outside of Roots during one of the events and listened to Chapel Hill’s C. Albert Blomquist play honky-tonk inspired songs.
“I like his old country style, and it's reminding me to check that out again," she said. "I love listening to as many different genres as I can find."
Regarding the music series as a whole, Parker said she enjoyed the relaxed nature of the shows.
“I like that the public can easily access not only a new genre of music but live music, and that can be inspiring to anyone who'd like to perform at some point," she said.
The next Downtown Live event will be on Friday, April 14. Stevan Jackson, Colin Cutler and Alice Osborn are the scheduled performers.
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