Postcrypt Coffeehouse hosted its second performance of the 2022-2023 academic year last Friday, September 30. Deputy Arts Editor Marino Bubba reviews.

The basement of St. Paul’s Chapel conceals Columbia’s only underground (literally) performance venue: Postcrypt Coffeehouse. Set between narrow stone-and-mortar walls, lit by a mix of sparse overhead bulbs and Christmas string lights, Postcrypt is the perfect combination of cozy and creepy. Each of the thirty chairs—a hodgepodge of plastic folders and ancient wooden behemoths—are angled toward the stage. Or rather, what passes for a stage in such an intimate setting. In reality, it is a simple wooden box covered in velvet-red carpeting about one foot high and six feet long. Next to the box stands a well-worn spinet piano, its black paint finish thick and lumpy like elephant skin. Above the box is a hand-painted black and white wooden sign announcing the venue.

Last Friday, the basement was cramped, but bumped shoulders quickly turned into conversations with strangers. The girl next to me had a crush on the first performer. After seeing his set, I can’t blame her.

Daniel Vaz (right) and Phillipe Wu (left) jamming out.

Daniel Vaz (CC ‘23) took the stage first, acoustic guitar in hand. Though he played with the frenetic energy and guitar licks of a folk musician, his set opened with a cover of Drake’s Hold On, We’re Going Home. This delightfully incongruous style held throughout the night as Vaz covered The Arctic Monkeys, Olivia Rodrigo, and Led Zeppelin, as well as folk-favorites Bob Dylan and Jeff Buckley. Vaz dedicated each song in this motley set to a friend, sharing a little personal anecdote with the audience before settling in. He even invited two of his friends up to the stage as guest performers: Phillipe Wu (SEAS ‘23) on fiddle and Doran Sekaran (CC ‘23) on mandolin. In this spirit of lifting up his friends, Vaz shared the link to Sekaran’s Spotify profile through Postcrypt’s advertisements for the performance. Vaz’s show ended alone, though, with a Buckley-inspired cover of Bob Dylan’s Just Like a Woman. 

As Vaz cleared the stage and the audience readied themselves for the next performance, staffers reminded the audience that Postcrypt is, in fact, a coffee house. As such, they served fresh coffee, tea, and cookies out of a window in the back corner of the venue, each for a dollar. They also announced that, due to popular demand, many students were waiting to see the next act. As a small venue, Postcrypt must strictly cap the attendance of its shows at 30 individuals. Kindly, many people shuffled out and left their seats so a new set of eyes and ears could enjoy the show.

Christina Li, also jamming out.

I did not, despite the disapproving looks I may or may not have had to endure. The things I do for you, Bwog.

The second and final performance of the night was Christina Li (CC ‘24), which explains the overflowing crowd (though this is a common occurrence due to Postcrypt’s limited space). Li is a veteran performer, both around Columbia and beyond. As a singer-songwriter, she played mostly original works, starting with Unwritten Lines—a song about writer’s block—before playing Residue, and her latest release No Sleep. She also threw in a few covers between the originals, including Laufey’s Falling Behind, which Li acknowledged as an influence for her own personal style. Li attempted to end her performance after playing the yet unreleased In Love with a Girl (which includes the fantastically specific opening lyric “I’m in love with a girl// She’s got eyes and a smile”) but the crowd wouldn’t let her. To quiet their chanting, Li promised to play an encore on the condition that the crowd sang along. So the night ended with thirty-odd voices echoing off the stone walls, softly repeating the line “just as you are.” To listen to this song (and many others), check out Li’s Spotify account.

Postcrypt hosts performances like these every Friday at 8:30 pm. If you are interested in attending, they ask that you please arrive at least fifteen minutes before the set you wish to see because they have limited capacity (30 attendees). Attendees are admitted on a first-come, first-served basis. In addition, they will host special performances, open mic nights, jam sessions (both jazz and folk), and storytelling nights throughout the semester. To keep up with these, consider following them on Instagram and Facebook.

Postcrypt!, Folk Friends, and Sole Singer via Marino Bubba