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Chapel Hill-Carrboro coffee shops offer unique, intimate live music setting


Performer and Columbia University adjunct professor David Austell poses in Epilogue Books Chocolate Brews on Saturday, April 2, 2023. Epilogue is one of the numerous local coffee shops that have opened their floors for small concerts.

Coffee shops in the Chapel Hill-Carrboro area are embracing a different way of bringing the community together — through live music. 

Lanza’s Cafe, Epilogue Books Chocolate Brews and 1922 by Carolina Coffee Shop have hosted live music events in their intimate settings, a different experience from a concert at Cat's Cradle or Local 506.

Christina Chiarolanza-Vad and Catherine Coley are the co-owners of Lanza’s Cafe in Carrboro. Vad said the idea behind opening the cafe was to create a place of comfort and familiarity in the community. 

“I think anytime there's music, it brings more people out,” she said. 

Lanza’s hosts various evening events open to the community each week. Vad said the cafe’s most popular events are the trivia and chess nights.

“It's just coming together with food and drink, to play games, to talk, to share,” she said. “That's literally the motto — when people come in, we just want them to feel like they're coming to our house to hang out and have a drink.”

Lanza’s has featured a variety of different musicians of different genres — from folk to funk — and the performances are all part of the effort to bring the community closer together, Coley and Vad said.

David Austell writes original poetry and music. He has played at Epilogue, performing and reciting his songs and poetry.

Austell said his goal is to offer a calming experience in the coffee shops where he performs. He embeds his poetry in music to create something different, he said.

“What I'm trying to do is have a warm environment,” Austell said. “So between the sets, I try to talk to the audience and thank them for coming and develop a relationship as much as possible with them while I'm playing.”

Austell's next scheduled performance at Epilogue is on April 21 at 6 p.m.

Gaby Iori, the events coordinator at Epilogue, said the books and coffee store is a place to shop and take a breath. 

“I think it is really nice to be able to provide the space for people who want to perform and for people who just want to listen and go somewhere to see something new,” Iori said.

Iori described the typical live music at Epilogue as similar to lo-fi or acoustic.

“I feel like if you had to pick a vibe for what coffee shop music is, it's what we have,” Iori said.

Across the street from Epilogue, 1922 hosted its first live music event in February. 

Emmaus Holder, a drummer who plays for the band CSB, said he was surprised at the initial suggestion for them to play at 1922, as the venue isn't very large. He said that he occasionally visits the shop to study. 

However, Holder said 1922 closed early for the band to set up and, after reopening, the room was filled close to capacity.

“It was a very intimate setting, we were probably three or four feet from the closest audience members,” Holder said.

He added that local musicians such as Austell perform at these venues and provide a different musical experience for listeners instead of busking on a street corner.

Coley and Vad said the sense of community from these events is evident.

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“We've had people cry and give us hugs and thank us multiple times,” Vad said. “It's awesome. That's why we're doing it.”


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