Coffee, concerts and jewelry with NEW.WAV
Cup of Troy, a traveling cafe run by USC students, made its final stop on Sunday at the Dustbowl, a backyard converted into a local concert hall. But, NEW.WAV, an event hosted by the media company World Wide Waves, was no ordinary concert in your backyard. If the harp standing on the stage wasn’t the first clue that the event was going to be something different, then local businesses lining the sides of the hall emphasized that it would be memorable.
Just beyond the ticket booth and a set of canvas curtains in the side yard, attendees were greeted in a large open space cleared for a crowd and flanked by crystal tables, art prints, sandwiches and, of course, coffee.
The mobile cafe bar, adorned with a USC logo, sat next to their branded Cup of Troy flag – a banner with the cafe’s name in Cardinal of Troy and in gold – which proudly hung from a trolley of grocery store transformed into a chariot. While interacting with colleagues and customers next to the store, Cup of Troy founder Shawn Tran, a senior specializing in the music industry, told the story of the student-run cafe.
The cafe – created just over a year ago during the coronavirus pandemic – started with a single espresso machine in Tran’s house. With previous barista experience, Tran began brewing coffee for her friends until her roommates told her they would pay for it. Deciding to expand the business, Tran created a logo and opened his house for sale to the public. Since then, the Cup of Troy Instagram page – and the company itself – has grown to over 1,000 followers.
While Cup of Troy originally only traveled to different parts of the campus, Tran decided he wanted to expand both the store’s boundaries and the types of experiences they shared with students.
“There is certainly a community aspect to this, we have started to sell [coffee], but then … we started to invite [musicians] play because I was a big fan of the ensemble [idea of enjoying] music while you drink coffee.
Before the music even started, people gathered around the various vendor tables, chatting among themselves as they met new faces and reunited with old friends. Vendors included BONMì, a Vietnamese-style sandwich shop, and Peace of Mind, a company that promotes local artists and hosts events for the Compton community.
The cafe might have drawn people to the event, but the local businesses and music kept them going.
A recent graduate from USC, Alyssa Gibson launched her business in January virtually due to the coronavirus pandemic. With NEW.WAV as his second in-person event after quarantine, Gibson described how doing business is virtually different from doing it in person.
“[Selling online] is different than in person because obviously I can interact with the person physically, it is not [through] a screen, but I like both experiences, ”Gibson said,“ I still have that connection to a person buying something [online]. ”
Conversations about music punctuated his remarks, showing that real connections were made – not just transactions. The vendors’ tables stayed occupied all night, as the students chatted with each other and shared their art.
Across the hall was DJ Mikey Aguilera, seated alongside a violin, harp and bass for self-proclaimed “NeoSoul Psychedelic Jazz Rock”, Marcellina & the Monarchs.
At the start of the live music, people gathered around the stage, swaying to the songs of Marcellina with Cup of Troy drinks in hand. World Wide Waves content director and USC alumnus Faiz Haque spoke about Cup of Troy’s influence on the music scene around the university.
“They’ve been hosting these live music events for about a year, they’ve done a lot to revitalize the live music community around USC,” Haque said. “[World Wide Waves and Cup of Troy] did shows before [the pandemic], and they built all this infrastructure and inspired people to come here and start doing shows.
Haque also commented on how he hopes to continue working with Cup of Troy to bring people together and share music.
“I’m excited to keep going, to keep the momentum going and to start hosting live music shows again, because that’s something I used to do. I was the head of the concerts committee at USC, so we were doing virtual events. ” he said.
Programming has shown that World Wide Wave attracts not only an audience, but an impressive array of musicians as well. Alongside Marcellina & The Monarchs, performers included Half Moon Bay, Seiji Oda and Sara Kawai – who accompanied several artists on her harp.
It was not just the location of the house that made the event so close, but the participants’ interactions with each other. After a year of virtual events on Zoom, the musicians, vendors and students were happy to spend time with each other face to face.
“I graduated from USC a few months ago and it’s great to see all of my friends still going to school on campus and [doing stuff]”Said Haque. “So yeah, we’re out, we’re open, I’m not looking back. We will continue to do shows.
Despite the fact that his followers hit four figures on Instagram, Cup of Troy continued to maintain the closeness he had at the start of the business, with Tran simply sharing coffee with his friends.
While the USC campus may have Starbucks or Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf drinks that taste similar, they certainly won’t feel the same. Cup of Troy sums up what cafes were originally meant to do – provide a space for people to collaborate and socialize. Even without a physical store, Cup of Troy brings people together.
As Tran said, “I think it’s very different, events like these, because we have a large number of people. I think they’re all somehow [here] through coffee and the community.