Featured photo: Yam Yam’s Tom Fuller on guitar and Jason Mescia on sax at Cohab.Space in High Point on Sept. 22. (photo by Beckett Clarey)
The stage is smoky, lit only by thin streams of green and purple light. While Dave Watts of the Motet lays down a smooth, syncopated drum line, Garrett Sayers uses his bass to dodge and weave around the beat like a boxer, his notes like punches. Drew Sayers accents the action with syncopated synth chords. But all eyes are on Joey Porter, standing over two rows of electronic keyboards, presiding over an intricate solo. As he skillfully takes the audience around the circle of fifths, the notes don’t seem like they are coming from his fingers; it seems like they are pouring straight out of him, like tears streaming down his face.
The Motet, a funk and soul group out of Denver, played the Cohab.Space with Yam Yam on Sept. 22 in High Point in an event that included a food truck, a low country seafood boil, and an art/furniture gallery for people to walk through.
Cohab isn’t like the other music venues and bars around the Triad. It began inside a repurposed hosiery mill in 2017, intended as a design hub for local artists and designers, with a top-shelf furniture and art gallery open to the public all year round. High Point is an enormous hub for furniture sales, but most of it happens at the biannual Furniture Market, which, unlike Cohab, is not open to the public.
Since 2022, in addition to operating the furniture gallery, Cohab.Space has been hosting live music in a large lot outside. To make this happen they initially partnered with Ziggy’s, a revered music venue that saw three different incarnations in Winston-Salem. But as of 2023, the two are no longer connected.
Cohab owner John Muldoon says his mission for the venue is “connecting the different communities of art and design and trying to help activate [High Point] in a different way.”
It was never his intention to have a music venue, he says.
To this day, Cohab.Space exists primarily as a furniture gallery. Inside a clean space, one-of-a-kind tables, chairs, desks, glasses, wardrobes, unique pots and small statues present themselves on the hardwood floors. Several paintings provided by Blue Spiral 1 smatter the white walls. It all looks like something torn from the pages of a home-design magazine. Nearly all of it, including the paintings, is for sale. And though the space is open to the public, not everyone can afford to shop here.
“The cash driver is the business we’ve developed over the years in our furniture and home design,” Muldoon says. “We sell primarily to trade clients, which are architects or interior designers or stores, but we’re purposely open to the public. That audience is only slowly developing. It’s more for people to experience design and have it available to them, but our business is driven by the trade.”
He explains that they also have a 30,000 square-foot warehouse down the street, where they do their shipping and receiving and level block loading.
“This is just showcasing the product,” he says. “But where the orders move is down there.”
The outdoor area of Cohab.Space is a walled garden nestled behind the barren downtown High Point streets. From the road, the entire area can barely be seen. There’s a large open area with tables and bean bags set up around the middle of the gravel floor, with flower beds and small art pieces along the entrance and sides of the space. On each side of the stage stands a row of tents with an outdoor bar, a place to buy band merch, and a few people set up selling jewelry, art and crystals. To the right, just beyond the boundary of the space, the occasional train speeds by.
The low country boil took five people all day to prepare, says head chef Brian DePauils. Onions had to be cut, oysters cleaned, lemons sliced, fresh thyme de-stemmed. Six sides needed to be pickled from scratch. The shrimp, pulled from Cape Hatteras at 6 a.m., were in motion all the way until they hit the table.
Onstage, the Motet’s new vocalist, Sarah Clarke, acts as the perfect centerpiece for the group. She delivers a powerhouse performance, at times singing low and deep, but exploding in energy and ornamenting her powerful shouts with skillful ad libs and vocal runs when needed. She belts out long notes with a growl, but expertly shifts to clean mellow tones as songs progress. As the band coalesces, it doesn’t feel like they are just playing their music; it feels like a party.
“We’re not Raleigh; we’re not Asheville, you know, we don’t have this young culture of music and what’s going on,” Muldoon explains. “So we need to draw people out. Sitting here, there’s not a university music station. There’s not, you know, a WFYZ or something like that… I know that my draws are 10 percent community here in High Point and 90 percent from outside.”
Now Yam Yam has the stage, playing their stew of funk and jazz. Tom Fuller plays the guitar like it owes him money, his right hand smacking up and down the strings as if powered by an engine. As another train starts to barrel down the tracks, the sounds blend — the pounding of the drums, the rhythmic punching of the bass, Fuller’s guitar and the fast chugging of locomotive wheels — to create something uniquely High Point.
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