Zephyranthes – Alive in the Shed is a Psychedelic Escape to the Before Times

“Alive in the Shed” preserves the magic of the Raleigh math rockers’ live shows.

What’s the stupidest question I could ask you?

Right now, “Do you miss live music?” is a top contender, at least for anyone reading this blog. Who doesn’t miss rippling guitar solos, sticky tabletops, watching drummers shower the stage with sweat? What wouldn’t I give to run into an old friend at The Wicked Witch, to headbang with strangers, our collective BO mingling in a noxious, gloriously communal cloud?

Back in the Before Times, some of the best showmen in Raleigh included the band Zephyranthes. They’re known for putting on great performances. And for those of us who miss rocking out, they’ve committed a concert to video.

Photo by Olivia Huntley. Courtesy of Zephyranthes.

Now you can enjoy Zephyranthes’s hellaciously ambitious math rock and committed hairography in the privacy of your own home. Recorded in November of Last Year, Zephyranthes – Alive in the Shed pairs psychedelic visuals with richly-reverbed riffs.

I headbanged in my bedroom for the first time in months. My neck? Sore. My heart? Happy. It wasn’t quite as good as a night at Motorco, but this broadcast from the band’s practice space is a perfect capture of the Zephyranthes magic. 10/10, highly recommend.

At the moment, the biggest homebodies I know would enjoy some squealing mic feedback. Most every Triangle music fan longs for the colored lights at Cat’s Cradle, or to lose a friend to a bathroom makeout at one bar and find them again at The Pinhook.

Hell, I’m the only lesbian in this town that doesn’t like beer, and I’d sell my soul for the chance to choke down a warm pilsner on a sticky Carolina night.

But until we can see Zephyranthes live, this set recording feels like a little slice of grungy heaven during one hell of a year.

See “Alive in the Shed”



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Q&A: In Conversation with Zephyranthes

Q&A: Smoke From All The Friction

In conversation with Cam Gillette and Kenny Andrews of electropop duo Smoke From All The Friction.

Substance and style; Cam Gillette and Kenny Andrews of Smoke From All The Friction are determined to have it all. The electropop duo are all about creating meaningful electropop and playing it with panache.

The duo’s discography plunges into industrial barb and coasts over sparkling EDM by turns. Andrews and Gillette clearly relish the many moods of electropop, and pride themselves on their inventive execution.

As for style, you never know what to expect from the Raleigh band’s shows. Past appearances have included flashy visuals, an audience drum circle, and experimentation with livestreams that bring fans into the Smoke From All Friction fray.

Gillette and Andrews let me in on how they met, their ideas about spectacle in live shows, and just how they built Kenny’s impressive electronic drum setup.

Cam and Kenny, you two were introduced through a yoga meetup. When did you first begin talking about music? What were those early conversations between you like?

Kenny: Yeah! We met through the acro yoga community in Raleigh and became friends. I think most of our early music conversations were about bands we are into and our musical tastes. I felt like Cam commented on a Memphis May Fire tank I was wearing at one point. I pointed out the Tool sticker on the back of his car another time. From there, we started chatting more at house gatherings and bars. I would say it took a year or so before we thought of playing together in a band. At first I was asked if I could perform at a couple SFATF gigs. From there it kind of just progressed to what we are now. I don’t think there was an “aha” moment or anything, it was all very organic. 

Cam: A band is similar to most relationships; involving maturity, humility and chemistry. I had worked and gone though a decent number of other players, and asked him to play a few shows with me. He was reliable and easy to work with. Shortly after that we had a conversation where we basically both asked each other, “what do you want out of this” and “what do you have to offer?” I’ve found if you have that kind of conversation early in a relationship of any kind, it avoids a lot of the drama and missed expectations.

Kenny, you learned to drum on a classic kit, but for Smoke From All The Friction, you and Cam built a massive electronic drum setup yourselves. What materials did you use, and where did you source them from? How has that expanded palette of sound changed your playing?

Kenny: Ah! I take back what I just said. This was the “aha” moment for me, our first creation! So Cam and I were chatting one day on how to incorporate these four electronic drum pads he has. As you mentioned, I learned drums on a classic kit and have been playing classic kits since high school. I still play on my twenty-two piece kit at my house recreationally. So because of this I have a lot of drumming hardware and pieces I’ve “broken” over the years at my disposal.

The percussion pad thing we built is made up of a broken boom cymbal stand, a Latin Percussion mount, a piece of a cowbell kick-drum mount, and the four electronic drum pads along with electronic brain. It truly is a unique creation and is so fun to play. By the powers of Cam’s computer knowledge, the four different pads change their sound from song to song, and sometimes even in the same song. So I’ve gone from playing on a twenty-two piece kit to playing four seemingly infinite pads. Also, unlike the classic performing drum setup, I play the pads front stage while standing. Last, but certainly not least, it only takes me one trip from my car to the venue and about two minutes at most to set up the percussion pad we built when we perform. #blessed.

Cam, rather than writing “genre” songs, you like to work from what you call “outlines” or “blueprints” in your songwriting process. For instance, you might try to write a song that feels like a color. Tell me more about the outlines that have structured your music, and give me an example of how you’ve integrated that inspiration into a song.

Cam: One of the advantages of doing all the different roles of a songwriter, musician, engineer and performer is that you have a lot of control over the entire product. However, the problem is that it becomes a lot to deliver for one person. So to work around that, I try to very intentionally separate my behavior into different roles. Outlining concepts and goals are a large part of that. So the more time I can spend away from the mixing console and writing out my intentions, plans, and bigger vision, the easier it is to stay on target.

An example of this would be how I wrote the album Transience. For the album, I wrote a number of interludes to connect different songs into a more cohesive theme. So I wrote the themes and feelings of the “main” tracks in the album, and with that written I could far more easily create the vision for the interludes between the tracks because I knew where I would be coming from and where I needed to end up.

This question is for both of you. The band Nine Inch Nails has come up a lot as an influence for Smoke From All The Friction, and among their many endeavors, Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross have scored several films together, including The Social Network, Bird Box, and Gone Girl. Let’s say the two of you could score a film together. What film genre do you think your music would best lend itself to?

Kenny: The film would definitely have to be futuristic and electronic. I’d say something along the lines of The Matrix trilogy, Tron, Ready Player One, and/or Blade Runner.  

Cam: I agree, I’ve always enjoyed more “futuristic” or dystopian-sounding music. So something a bit more dark, focusing on the near infinite abilities of good or ill humans can and have achieved. I really enjoyed the soundtrack of the new Blade Runner as well. I heard a quote about the Terminator 2 soundtrack, where the soundtrack was almost indistinguishable from the sound effect track, and that would be an intriguing challenge.

As Smoke From All The Friction, you guys continue to push the envelope at your live shows. Previous shows have included projected visuals, strobe light breakdowns, even an electronic drum circle involving the crowd. What does the concept of spectacle in a live show mean to you? How will you raise the bar at future shows?

Cam: We live in a culture where there’s a fine line where pushing creative borders turns into an avante-garde experience. I try to shoot for a 70/30 ratio, where we can’t violate more than 30% of something uncommon or experimental, because we want to leave the audience with some familiar to hold onto so they can focus more on the unfamiliar things we’re also bringing. Some places we’re experimenting with is having crowd interaction with lights and other media. Or having a level of interaction with our livestreamed shows, where the crowd can functionally interact with us in specific ways through the net.

Kenny: We like to leave a memorable impression at our shows. We don’t want to look or sound like just another band at a bar. We constantly change instruments and perform our songs in a way that, I feel, people aren’t used to seeing. Our visuals and light shows are custom-made to our songs. Those visuals help convey a mood and aesthetic that enhances our sound. We like to challenge ourselves to see what all we can achieve live. That being said, there’s no telling what else we may try to implement in our future performances.    

Smoke From All The Friction has a new album in the works. If you had to name a few albums by other artists that have inspired your latest project, what would they be? It could be from a thematic standpoint, a production standpoint- anything.

Cam: SFATF has a goal of trying to bring more niche ideas and sounds to an audience that doesn’t get to hear them. Some current artists include synthwave artists: Perturbator and Daniel Deluxe, pop artists: The Band CAMINO, electronic : SOPHIE and HEALTH.

What’s an interview question you’ve never been asked that you’d like to answer?

Cam: What are the wrong ways to be an artist in 2019?

Kenny: What’s your favorite instrument to play and why?

All images courtesy of Smoke From All The Friction.

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Q&A: Rapper and Producer Steezie on Effortless Artistry

The Raleigh artist sounds off on the genesis of his flow and how he operates in the studio.

Whether he’s buoying a crowd behind the mic, or orchestrating chest-rattling bass in the studio, rapper, producer, and engineer Steezie maintains his tranquility.

The name “Steezie” is an amalgamation of the words “style” and “ease;” words that the Raleigh-based artist has built his persona around.

For a look at that internal placidity in action, check out the music video for his 2017 single, “MI AMOR.” Steezie jumps, spins, and grooves around The Raleigh Rose Garden. His dancing could easily motivate a crowd and anchor a party, but his easygoing smile and economy of movement all feel utterly effortless.

Steezie rarely strays from an unblemished vocal delivery and low-pitched placement. His flow is the star; he’ll spit rapid-fire for several bars before stretching out syllables like taffy.

Steezie’s lyrics compliment the image of effortless mastery he’s cultivated. Generally featuring his skills as a lover and his ability to foresee snakes in the grass, he positions himself as a man in command, always a little slyer than his enemies.

Originally from Harare, Zimbabwe, Steezie’s move to the States coincided with his decision to make music. He spent the following ten years learning his craft, and cut his teeth performing in Raleigh.

When I met Steezie over Hangouts, I found that his particular brand of passionate equilibrium carried over from his public persona to his personal life. He’s happy to share, enthusiastic about his projects and the development of the Raleigh rap scene, but he sustains an unruffled air at all times.

I spoke with Steezie about the sounds coming out of the Raleigh rap scene, how he navigates his time in the studio, and how his roots have shaped his style.

What are your favorite places in Raleigh?

Oh, I love Kings Barcade. I definitely love…The Pour House is a nice spot. Except that they don’t accept people under twenty-one, which is a killer because people in that age range listen to our music a lot. I like The Ritz. That was definitely the best place I’ve performed at. The Wicked Witch is another spot that I’ve been to. That’s really good. Those are some of my favorite spots, definitely, in downtown Raleigh.

What are a few of your favorite shows you’ve performed in, and what made them your favorite?

I performed one time in Boone at a college event. It was a frat party and that was one of my favorites. The energy inside this frat house was really crazy. They rooted for us from the start to the end, and they were just on point the whole time. The energy didn’t stop from start to finish. It was not a big venue or anything crazy. When you’re in something that everyone is participating in, and involved, and everyone is cheering for you, it’s something special.

Is crowd energy what makes a show for you?

Generally, yes, crowd energy is definitely the biggest factor. I would also say this; the Ritz was a great place that I performed at, even though it was a different crowd from…basically from young to old. It wasn’t a targeted group of people. So it was hard to capture the crowd with that different sound. It was a weird experience, but it was great. It was the biggest stage I’ve performed at.

In addition to being a rapper and an artist, you’re also a producer and an engineer.

Yes, I do engineer for myself. When I started out as an artist, and I had friends that I saw were creating and making beats and engineering, I used to sit back and I felt left out, so I was like, “Yo, I’m going to see what that’s about.”

So I got into the studio and started making beats and producing, and while I was producing I got connected with different artists from around the city. And they were trying to hop on my beats, and sometimes I didn’t get to record them because I didn’t know anybody that recorded people. So I started learning how to engineer. It’s all connected together: producing, engineering, and artistry. It’s all connected together, it all helped out.

And it’s created something special, not only for myself but for the upcoming scene here in North Carolina. I get to see so much talent come through and being able to get on a verse, or make the beat, or engineer the song is…I want to be involved in any type of way, you know? So that’s why I love it.

If you had to typify the sound coming out of the Raleigh rap scene right now, how would you describe it in a few words?

Well, right now it’s evolving because we have so many different sides and parts of Raleigh. I don’t even know if you can even give us a stamp on a sound, because we have an old school sound from Rapsody, she’s got that boom bap. So we’ve got that type of sound, we have artists that make trap music, we have R&B…we got so much to offer. Like I can’t even put it all in one box. So it’s really everywhere, that’s the interesting part. It’s just gonna take the right years to come and listen and find this area and hear what we have going on. It’s something special.

It’s terrific. What would you say are the greatest challenges facing the scene as it develops?

The greatest challenges right now…I just feel like people…I feel like people should connect more and not so much have an expectation towards situations that have other people involved. Like shows, or going into a studio, or collaborating with an artist. I think people’s first impressions towards artists are not really good. I think people should go out there and really get to understand the artist and get to creating. It doesn’t matter if you’re a musical artist, or photographer, or a video person. I think we should open up to each other a lot more, because we have so much to offer for each other.

Everybody wants to get that coastline, from Atlanta and New York and L.A. and stuff…but the people are here, within us, like the producers are here around us, the video people are here around us, so everybody should just reach out more. Go to events. Go to the studio. Go link up with a video person, talk to them, you know, be friends with them. Besides just music, just connect with them so things can move forward.

That makes sense to me. Let’s talk genre for a sec. You have a really interesting old school hip hop approach to genre, in that you pull from a wide palette of sounds. There’s a real R&B feel in “Sublime,” and you’ve got an alt-rock feel with “Evaporate.”


You also definitely use sounds that are associated with hip hop. What inspires you to use that old school approach and pull from a variety of genres?

I’m so eager to make different types of sounds, and show people what I’m capable of making. Because I don’t want to be boxed into one type of genre.

I want to break that boundary, because right now, what being an artist is about…people have a certain sound. Like when you hear a certain sound, you’re automatically associated with one artist. Oh, that’s- that’s him. My whole like thing is like, I want to do songs that people don’t realize it’s me. They’ll be, like, “Yo, who is this?” And then they’re like, “Oh, he doesn’t even make that type of stuff,” you know? I feel like being a producer too helps out a lot, because I have so much to pick from, sounds to pick from, that I can just go to. I have old school sounds, and I can’t take out that old school root for me. I love it. I feel like it will always stay alive.

Absolutely. One of the hallmarks of your flow that I wanted to draw attention to is how effortless it seems. Even if you’re doing something that’s technically difficult, it always feels natural, like you’re not breaking a sweat. You pair that with a really organic sampling style. How did that approach evolve?

That approach is just…it’s just me. It’s Steez! My whole name is “style and ease,” that’s how the root came together. That just who I am. And I’m very introverted. I’m quiet. You know, I have…most of the time I’m just quiet. And I take things with a lighter approach. So that’s how I approach my music. Like I don’t need to prove anything. I’m making the art from from my heart, not to prove the point that I’m the hottest out or anything like that.

That makes sense.

Yeah. But I definitely have songs where I am not quiet. Like, it’s that party vibe, I still have that party side in me a lot. So it’s going to come. Right now I’m in a slow type of music, my music is slow-tempoed, but I’m bringing that fast energy very soon, so I’m excited for that.

Because you have these aspects of you as a producer, as an engineer, and then you frequently generate your own beats to rap over, what in your mind makes for an iconic beat- a great beat to rap to?

Right now, what makes a great beat is something really raw and organic. Something that just flows within you. Like, if you were to sit there and make a beat for ten, fifteen minutes, twenty minutes. I know that sounds like a rush, but if you’re just trusting your gut, you just trust your gut will place things where they are supposed to be. It’s about trusting yourself. The producer that trusts themselves, and believes they can make something in a small amount of time just by going with the flow and the energy in that time, are the greatest producers right now. Because it’s simple, it has to be open for the artist to throw different different types of cadences to it. So that’s what makes a great beat. Something open and vibey for the artist to get on and do that thing.

So it’s all about instinct.

Yes. This is really about instinct. You got to be raw at it. Because when you’re in the studio, the process is you have an artist behind you. And they don’t want to sit and wait for you to make a beat in like, a whole hour. By that time, most of the time artists are already like…the ideas have really flown out their head. So if you’re making it right on the spot, you’re done with it in ten minutes, and you know the artist gets on it and that way the energy is captured right there. Everybody’s just passing around this energy. It’s crazy. It’s magic.

It’s like catching lightning in a bottle.

Seriously. So that’s how you create something great right there.

Very cool. I wanted to touch on that you’re originally from Harare, Zimbabwe.


And you moved here in 2008. What was that transition like?

It was really different. Because it wasn’t like I was not aware of the culture here. I knew the culture here. Like, you know, I was watching music videos. I was listening to Lil Wayne, I was listening to a lot of artists from here. And I knew a lot- I thought I knew a lot, but when I got here it was way different. I got to know what’s going on. It took me some time to get to understand how people are. You know, everybody’s different. So it took me some time to kind of adjust to the people here. And I got used to it, and I just grew into it. So it was great. It was awesome.

How do you integrate American influences with Zimbabwean influences? You’ve mentioned in the past that it affects your cadence. Tell me more about that.

“In Atlanta, their accent and flow and cadence is there and like- it’s just straightforward. Like for me, I had my accent. I can kind of blend in, so people could understand me. You know what I’m sayin’? I feel like that was one thing that I had to spend some time working. I had to find a certain place where I can fit my voice. And that soft cadence, it’s something that I had started out with and it was great. But I know I have so much more inside. So it’s been really great finding that.”

Photo courtesy of Steezie.

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New Vegan Eats: Earth to Us and Vegan Community Kitchen

Earth to Us of Durham and Vegan Community Kitchen of Apex offer vegan cuisine to satisfy any foodie.

Vegans and omnivores alike, rejoice! Two new additions to the Triangle dining scene are doing vegan versions of beloved cuisines with flair that foodies of any diet will appreciate.

Earth to Us of Durham does comfort food with a Latin bent, and Vegan Community Kitchen of Apex takes on Turkish cuisine. Both family-owned enterprises are taking root in the Triangle vegan scene, but anyone who loves a delicious meal will feel at home- this omnivore included.

Earth to Us

Cauliflower wings.

You’ll find Earth to Us tucked just outside of Northgate Mall in Durham. The space is cheerfully decorated with a bicycle installation, framed photos of the food, and chalkboard drawings.

Firstly, all of the appetizers are tempting, but I think you can’t go wrong with the cauliflower wings. With a satisfyingly crunchy fried exterior, the spicy bang bang sauce and drizzle of ranch fulfill every wing craving. The loaded nachos, topped with a mound of guacamole, are infinitely Instagrammable and delicious.

The chicken and rice plate.

Next, I went for the generously-sauced soy barbecue chicken, served with pigeon pea rice and slaw. The well-spiced barbecue sauce complimented the soy chicken’s convincing texture. Plus, I have a weakness for arroz con gandules, and this was a great version of that Puerto Rican treat.

The Impossible Burger

Finally, I had to try Earth to Us’s take on the Impossible Burger, the bona fide fad by Impossible Foods. I can add my voice to those lauding the patty’s realistic texture. I love me a good burger, and this is as close to a red-blooded texture and taste as I’ve ever had in an imitation. The Earth to Us version comes piled high with fresh lettuce and tomato, spicy sauce, and cooked onions.

Although the Earth to Us menu has more favorite American comfort foods, the arepas are also yummy. Accompanied by a creamy garlic sauce and daiya cheese (a substitute made from cassava and arrowroot), this arepa addict gives them a big thumbs-up.

Vegan Community Kitchen

Just a few minute’s drive past downtown Apex, the mother-daughter team at Vegan Community Kitchen serve vegan Turkish cuisine.

Right at the door, you’re greeted with an enticing case of brightly-colored fresh salads and grains. Make sure to return to this case after you walk past down the counter to order, because tasty options abound.

Red lentil balls and tabbouleh.

I sprung for the red lentil balls and tabbouleh. Peppered with fresh parsley, the tabbouleh was one of the best I’ve had- uber-flavorful. It was my first time with red lentil balls, but based on the Vegan Community Kitchen version, I’d order them again anywhere.

The Iskender kebab platter.

Next, I hit up the Iskender kebab platter. Seitan, a wheat substitute, stood in for traditional meat. The seitan, cooked to a beefy consistency, was a great base, but took a backseat to the yogurt and fresh tomato sauces. Served on pita triangles with herbs tossed on top, this is a more-than-worthy meatless alternative for those of us with a doner kebab habit.

Falafel combo

Finally, the falafel combo cemented Vegan Community Kitchen as a foodie destination for me. Light, flavorful falafel, classic hummus, and traditional stuffed grape leaves served with fresh veggies? Yes, please. This is a Mediterranean classic done right.

The welcoming atmospheres and diverse menus of Earth to Us and Vegan Community Kitchen make them exciting additions to the vegan scene, and the Triangle food world at large. Forks and knives at the ready, everyone.

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Q&A: Raleigh Scratchboard Artist Dorian Monsalve

A Q&A with Raleigh-based artist Dorian Monsalve, who brings fantastical visions to life in his surrealist scratchboard art.

Looking at Dorian Monsalve’s surrealist scratchboard art is like peering through an incredibly detailed kaleidoscope. Every glance reveals a new perspective. There are a multitude of vividly colored dimensions, each etched with unconventional shapes, textures, and ghoulish faces.

Scratchboard art- scratching away layers of ink on a clayboard to create images- captivated Monsalve since he first encountered the medium in high school.

Trained in Colombia and New Jersey, the now Raleigh-based Monsalve has exhibited in the Triangle since 2015. With solo and group exhibitions including CAMRaleigh, The ArtsCenter, Trophy Tap & Table, City Gallery, and merit awards from Litmus Gallery & Studios and the Maria V. Howard Arts Center, Monsalve’s work brings fantastical visions to the Triangle arts scene.

Monsalve walked me through his artistic process, the reception to his work in the Triangle, and how his art connects him with the universe.

When did you first encounter scratchboard art, and what were your initial impressions of the medium?

The first encounter with scratchboard was in high school in my senior year. I thought scratchboard was so fun to create images just by using a sharp tool and etching away the india ink through either lines or crosshatching. The best was the high contrast on the drawings and how detailed I could be with this medium.

Totem for a Broken Soul, Dorian Monsalve

Walk us through your artistic process. How do you go about selecting the colors you’ll use in a piece? Are the images you create planned in advance, or do they emerge organically as you create?

The white clayboard can be pre-inked with any colored ink you wish rather than the black india scratchboard that already comes pre-inked with black india. In order to apply the color you will have to etch the image, then paint, or just keep it black and white. Most of the time I’m using white clayboard. I select the ink colors, layer them and apply them randomly with different materials such as plastic, metal pieces, or any elements that create different textures.

Once the ink is dry, I start revealing the imagery and scape by rubbing a steel wool all around the piece. Then I visualize and explore, always finding faces or fantasy beings.  To bring the image forward or faded away I use a fiberglass brush, then for a more intricate detail I use x-acto blades, speedball tips of different sizes and tools that I invent. All imagery that emerges is from deep inside my being and from what I call the source, always inspired by instrumental music, nature, and the micro/macro cosmos.

Psychedelic Beast, Dorian Monsalve

You’ve been exhibiting in the Triangle since 2015. How would you describe the reception to your work in North Carolina?

My artwork has been appreciated and admired among artists and all public in general. My scratchboard art has been described as mysterious, macabre, dark and transforming (enlightening). The public has interacted with my work by looking through magnifying glasses that I provide to explore all the small details. The closer you get the more images are revealed.

Emergence of the Beast, Dorian Monsalve

You’ve often described experimental scratchboard art as a way of connecting with your inner self and the infinite. Your work tends toward the surrealistic, even the psychedelic. Do you find that surrealism is the most honest expression of your subconscious world?

I believe abstract, surrealism, psychedelic or even visionary art are just a word to label certain type of artworks. The soul is our/my most honest expression of ones/my subconscious world. It all comes from the source, God or however you wish to call it. “We are the instruments receiving divine energy from the source to materialize all beauty”.

Vortex III, Dorian Monsalve

You’ve been experimenting with scratchboard art for twelve years. What are you most looking forward to seeing in your personal artistic explorations of the medium, and in the wider world of scratchboard art?

What I am looking forward in seeing in my personal artistic journey with this medium is to accept, learn and experience all my soul and being by expressing sacred images, and bringing awareness that we are all one with the universe. The same way all the parts, organs, cells, even the microscopic atoms in our bodies are part of one single being. I am a reflection of the universe, so is my artwork.

Shaman Connection, Dorian Monsalve

All images courtesy of the artist.

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Dog Tested, Owner Approved: Fig and Oakwood Dog Park

Treat yourself and your dog to a walk on Brookside Drive in Raleigh, where Oakwood Dog Park and Fig offer fun for discerning dogs and owners.

I’m always looking for fun outings with my best friend, Summer. Here’s the complication: Summer is a dog.

Summer is ninety pounds of yellow fluff and personality, and I’m always looking for “dates” to take her on around town that will make her tail wag. If I get to taste-test something in the process, then it’s a win for everyone.

One of my favorite dog dates is to take Summer to Brookside Drive in Raleigh, where a great coffee shop and the best dog park in town are within walking distance of one another.


With tightly curated coffee, tea, and cocktail menus, Fig makes my favorite, a great Americano, and boasts beautiful decor. Dogs aren’t allowed inside, so save the gorgeous interior for your human pals.

However, there is a great option for when you have your dog in tow. There’s a convenient window at the front of the shop where you and your pooch can order, and then you can find a seat at the front or back patios.

Oakwood Dog Park

Now, Summer lives in a one-dog household, but she loves to socialize with other dogs, and sometimes, a few good butt sniffs on her daily walk just doesn’t do the trick.

A dog park is the answer, and for my money and Summer’s, the best dog park in town is a short walk away from Fig, just down Brookside Drive.

Just a little ways into Oakwood Park, there are two well-sized, fenced-in sections of a great dog park. The section on the left is for small dogs, and the section on the right is for big dogs. Summer, of course, goes to the right.

There are loads of trees to sniff, big buckets of water and a hose, clusters of plastic chairs and picnic tables, bags for dog business tied to the fence, and lots of friendly dogs and relaxed owners. Summer always has a great time.

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Cheap Raleigh Dates

Affordable Oak City romance.

Maybe you’re a long-term couple and you’re saving up to buy Hopscotch tickets together. Maybe you’re single, mingling, and don’t want to shell out too much cash on a first Tinder date. Or you’re a student and you want to go out, but you’d also like to, y’know, eat food this month. Any way you slice it, we all want maximum romance at a minimum cost — so The Triangle Guide presents the “Dates on a Shoestring” series. Up next, I hunt down Raleigh’s best affordable dates. Frugal flirtation, here you come.

Chocolate at Videri

For a sweet date, check out Videri Chocolate Factory.

As ubiquitous as the pairing of chocolate and romance is in American culture, unfortunately the chocolate in question is often chewy, flavorless, and in a sad sampler box. Give your chocolate experience a serious upgrade at Videri Chocolate Factory on West Davie Street.

Take a self-guided tour of the factory through the viewing area, where you can peer through the glass windows at the artisans making chocolate, working Monday through Friday from 10 AM to 3 PM. Next stop? The Videri retail counter, to pick up a sinfully delicious chocolate bar or other confection of your choosing. Then, sidle up to the coffee bar and enjoy your treats over coffee in the charming cafe or on their patio.

Sustainable purchasing standards, superior ingredients, no fillers, allergy friendly, and vegan options- this is chocolate you can feel good about, and an experience to savor. Dump that pathetic grocery store chocolate sampler and hit up Videri for all your romance/chocolate needs. They’re even open until 10 PM on Fridays and Saturdays, so you can get your chocolate fix into the evening.

Unique Art at VAE

The wall at the entrance to VAE Raleigh.

If you’re looking for some of the most unique art in Raleigh with no entrance fee, it’s time to hit up VAE Raleigh on West Martin. VAE Raleigh (the nonprofit force behind SPARKcon) boasts a 4,000 square foot gallery space that exhibits a host of rotating visionary artwork. Experimental, eclectic, politically relevant- the art on display here is sure to inspire conversation.

Check out their calendar for events- VAE Raleigh often hosts artist talks, summits, and happy hours in the gallery space and around Raleigh. You’ll also want to keep your eyes peeled for VAE Raleigh’s hours- they’re closed on Sundays, Mondays, and Tuesdays. (Hours are 11 AM to 6 PM Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, and from 11 AM to 4 PM on Saturdays.)

Arepas and the NC Museum of Art

Arepa goodness at the NC Museum of Art park.

A fast food date? Blah, right? Think again.

Take it from me; meet up with your date at the original Guasaca location on Lake Boone Trail. This cheerful counter-serve restaurant makes the most delicious, fresh fast food you’ve ever had- arepas. (If you’re not familiar, arepas are corn cakes popular in Venezuela and Colombia). Guasaca stuffs each fresh-baked corn cake pocket with delicious ingredients, and serves them wrapped in paper with an accompanying sauce.

Order to go. Get a signature arepa each, and chips and guasaca (Guasaca’s take on guacamole) to split. The signature arepas start at $3.95, and chips and guasaca go for $2.65.

Resist the urge to devour your bounty immediately, and drive to the NC Art Museum for a picnic. Enjoy your meal on the museum’s sculpted, sprawling grounds, and hit up the free, permanent collection afterwards. A delicious, uniquely Raleigh date- and all for a modest price.

Coffee at 42 & Lawrence

Picture-perfect at 42 & Lawrence.

Between the bowler hat light fixtures, the understated jazz, and the monochrome aesthetic (down to the mugs!) I’m calling it now- 42 & Lawrence on East Martin is Raleigh’s most atmospheric coffee date.

Whether you’re a pair of potential lovebirds or a couple looking to reconnect, you’ll find a delicious cuppa on the curated, creative menu, and a unique ambiance for your caffeinated rendezvous.

The Farmers’ Market and Dix Park

The State Farmers’ Market

For a perfect weekend date, explore the State Farmers’ Market with your beau. Peruse the fresh produce, plants (perhaps present a bouquet to a special someone?) and specialty items under cover of the shelters.

After exploring the Farmers’ Market, take the short drive over to Dix Park to enjoy Raleigh’s largest city park. You can end your day with a monthly yoga session at Williams Field (dates here.)

Seasonal sunflower fields at Dix Park.

Check out cheap dates in Durham here!

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