Durham Central Park Inc. has presented free concerts in the park since the Warehouse Blues series almost a decade ago. PLAYlist began as a way to bring more concerts to the park with a wider variety of genres. When 2020 brought all it had to offer, we had our first quiet summer in the park. There were still small events and rentals, and the park was the best place for everyone to enjoy each other’s company at a safe social distance. But we missed the dance parties with folks from toddling age to octogenarians. We missed so many beautiful Durham moments. In 2021 we wanted to bring it back and we were fortunate enough to find a great partner in WNCU 90.7 FM, the local jazz station run through NCCU. Ahead of the opening night of PLAYlist Concert Series’ 2022 Season, presented in partnership with WNCU FM on the first Friday night from May to October, we thought you’d like to hear more about the good work this station does for Durham and the greater Triangle community.
How WNCU Came to Partner on PLAYlist
Lackisha Freeman, General Manager at WNCU, has been there permanently since 2010. She spoke lovingly of Durham, the park and the station. She enjoys so much about where she is, but she said the most exciting thing, “is community engagement. It’s also the fact that we’re helping to prepare the next generation of broadcasters and journalists, by being licensed by the university. We partner very heavily with the jazz studies program – undergraduate and master. And we actually have more of our announcers who are graduates of the NCCU Jazz program.”
Freeman originally set out to rent the pavilion for a one-time event to engage those younger folks and to have a greater presence and visibility in the community. When DCP asked WCNU to partner on PLAYlist, it was a no-brainer . “We want to reflect the music program we present… the visions being aligned, it’s been an easy partnership.”
Indeed, Durham Central Park has relished our new relationship. WNCU simulcasts every concert, making PLAYlist widely available to anyone who wants to listen in from home. For Lackisha, “it was a matter of taking our arts presentation to a new level… [with Durham Central Park] we can be a united front and a stronger front.”
With folks feeling more comfortable at outdoor events, our two organizations are poised to be just that. Through this community partnership we are able to offer a free live performance, but also so much more.
What Makes PLAYlist So Great
Attendees are welcome to join us on the lawn earlier in the evening ahead of the live music and grab food and drinks. DJ Travis Gales presents his live DJ set, “The Friday Night Mix” right in the park for everyone to enjoy, starting at 7pm. And in addition to local food and beverage vendors, we offer the Night Market at PLAYlist, for folks to shop and browse throughout the night. Lackisha said of the DJ set, “Travis’s show has gained popularity. In year three the Friday Night Mix brings tons of listeners. The kind of music and vibe is funk, disco, dance, and recover from the work week.”
Of the impact the concert has had on Lackisha personally, she reflects what we all feel about bringing PLAYlist to fruition. Her favorite memory of 2021’s PLAYlist series, “was the soul train line. I got choked. After everything we went through with the pandemic, to see folks let loose and engage in each other. It was a true representation of the Bull City.”
This concert series is a true love letter from DCP and WNCU to the community. To provide space for Durham to be Durham, “this is why we’re doing what we’re doing and partnering with you all at Durham Central Park. I’m excited about this first concert we’re rolling out this Friday. I’m elated we’re kicking off with six concerts. Feeling safer, learning a lot, and we’re coming back stronger than ever. I’m just really psyched.”
Durham Central Park and WNCU FM presents PLAYlist’s opening night featuring Shana Tucker, who will be giving us an “Evening of Sade”. We could not be more excited, and we could not be more grateful to WNCU for making this partnership a boon to the entire community: from everyone on the lawn, to the vendors under the pavilion, to listeners at home. If you would like to support our work of providing the PLAYlist experience to the community completely free of charge you can make a donation to Durham Central Park here, and WNCU here.
Each evening starts with DJ Travis Gales spinning his Friday Night Mix live at the park at 7 p.m. Then the band takes the stage at 8 p.m. sharp. All the music is simulcast live through WNCU.
There are restrooms at Durham Central Park and the venue is ADA accessible. Parking is free in the lots caddy-cornered and above the park (entrances are on Foster St. and Morris St).
Local food trucks will be on site, as well as craft beer and other vendors.
There’s lawn seating, so please bring a blanket or lawn chair. Leashed pets are welcome.