Coffee, concerts and jewelry with NEW.WAV

Coffee, concerts and jewelry with NEW.WAV

Photo of a woman with a guitar, a man with a violin, a man playing the drums, a man playing the cello, and a person playing the harp.
Marcellina and the Monarchs kept the crowd entertained with soul and jazz as attendees explored the variety of vendors at the event. (Lydia Whitman | Daily Trojan)

Cup of Troy, a traveling coffee shop run by USC students, made its most recent pit stop Sunday at the Dustbowl — a backyard outfitted as a local music venue. But, NEW.WAV, an event hosted by media company World Wide Waves, was not your average backyard concert. If the harp standing on the stage wasn’t the first clue that the event was going to be something different, then the local businesses lining the sides of the venue highlighted that it would be memorable.

Just beyond the ticket stand and a set of canvas curtains in the side yard, attendees were welcomed into a large open space cleared for a crowd and flanked by tables of crystals, art prints, sandwiches and, of course, coffee. 

The mobile coffee bar, outfitted with a USC logo, sat next to their trademark Cup of Troy flag — a banner with the coffee shop’s name in Trojan cardinal and gold — which hung proudly from a retrofitted grocery-cart-turned-chariot. While interacting with co-workers and customers next to the shop, Cup of Troy founder Shawn Tran, a senior majoring in music industry, gave a history of the student-run coffee shop.  

The coffee shop — created just over a year ago during the coronavirus pandemic — started with a single espresso machine in Tran’s house. With prior barista experience, Tran began making coffee for his friends until his housemates told him they would pay money for it. Deciding to expand the business, Tran made a logo and opened up his house to sell it to the public. Since then, Cup of Troy’s Instagram page — and the company itself — has grown to over 1000 followers.

While Cup of Troy originally only travelled across different parts of campus, Tran decided he wanted to expand both the shop’s boundaries and the types of experiences they shared with students.

“There’s definitely a community aspect to this, we originally started just selling [coffee], but then … we started inviting [musicians] to play because I was a big fan of the whole [idea of enjoying] music while you drink some coffee.”

Even before the music set started, people gathered around the various vendor tables, talking with one another as they met new faces and caught up 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 coffee might have brought people to the event, but the local businesses and music made them stay.  

A recent USC grad, Alyssa Gibson launched her company in January virtually due to the coronavirus pandemic. With NEW.WAV as her second in-person event post-quarantine, Gibson described how conducting business virtually differed from doing so in person. 

“[Selling online] is different than in-person because, obviously, I get to interact with the person physically, it’s not [through] a screen, but I love both experiences,” Gibson said, “I do still very much get that connection with a person who is purchasing something [online].” 

Conversations carrying over the music punctuated her point, showing that real connections were being made — not just transactions. The vendors’ tables stayed busy throughout the night, as students chatted with one another and shared their art. 

Situated across the venue was DJ Mikey Aguilera, who was set up alongside a violin, harp and bass meant for the self-proclaimed “NeoSoul Psychedelic Jazz Rock” band, Marcellina & the Monarchs. 

As live music began, people gathered around the stage, swaying to Marcellina’s songs with Cup of Troy beverages in hand. Content director of World Wide Waves and USC alumnus Faiz Haque spoke about Cup of Troy’s influence on the music scene around the University. 

“They’ve been doing these live music events for the last year or so, they did a lot to revitalize the live music community around USC,” Haque said. “[World Wide Waves and Cup of Troy] were doing shows before [the pandemic], and they built this whole infrastructure and inspired people to get out here and start doing shows.”

Haque also commented on how he hopes to keep working with Cup of Troy to bring people together and share music. 

“I’m excited to just keep going, keep the momentum going and get back into throwing live music shows, because that’s something I was doing before. I was running concerts committee at USC, so we were doing virtual events.” he said.

The line-up showed that World Wide Wave not only attracted an audience but an impressive array of musicians. Along with Marcellina & The Monarchs, performers included Half Moon Bay, Seiji Oda and Sara Kawai — who accompanied multiple artists on her harp. 

It wasn’t just the home-y location that made the event feel tight-knit, but the interactions of attendees with one another. After a year of virtual events held over Zoom, musicians, vendors and students alike were happy to spend time with one another face-to-face. 

“I graduated from USC a few months ago, and it’s great to see all my friends who are still going to school back on campus and [doing stuff],” Haque said. “So yeah, we’re out, we’re open, I’m not looking back. We’re going to keep throwing shows.”

Despite the fact that its following reached four-digits on Instagram, Cup of Troy has continued to retain the closeness it had when the company first started, with Tran simply sharing coffee with his friends. 

While USC’s campus may have drinks at Starbucks or Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf that taste similar, they certainly won’t feel the same. Cup of Troy encapsulates what coffee shops were originally meant to do — provide a space for people to collaborate and socialize. Even without a brick-and-mortar store, Cup of Troy brings people together. 

As Tran said, “I think it’s a lot different, events like these, because we have a huge spread of people. I think they’re all just kind of [here] through coffee and the community.”

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