Almost five years ago, I found myself living in a new city, entirely unaware of music scene surrounding me. Knowing about as much as the tourist beside me, I first learned of the more predominant establishments such as the Music Farm and the Windjammer. With no car, my feet served as the cheapest mode of transportation and with the aid of an insightful roommate and life-long Charlestonian, I soon found myself falling away from the large concert halls and gravitating toward elusive venues for weekly doses of local performances, staged on a more grassroots level.
The melodic days of yore were spent leaning back in my bar stool watching Cary Ann Hearst at Vintage, standing second row back in awe of the Broken Angels at Fluids, and watching Clementine make moody magic at Mezzane. As in every city, eclectic venues come and go and local musicians make the pilgrimage to grander pastures with a new stock quick on their heels to fill the vacancies.
In the great turnover of 2005, multi-intrumentalist Nathan Koci hit the Charleston scene, quickly setting up sound with bassist Kevin Hamilton, of Gradual Lean fame, and drummer Ron Wiltrout, of Redux Contemporary Art Center. After a series of performances as members and collaborators of the powerhouse New Music Collective, the three bandmates created their buzz-worthy side project The Kopaja Trio.
"The three of us have been playing together in numerous different situations for a while," explains Koci. "Ron and Kevin have played together for at least four to five years, and I've been playing with them since I got to Charleston, around two years ago. We started Kopaja when Cordavi first opened, and have been playing there from the start, about eight or nine months ago."
Nestled in between the glossy storefronts on the waterfront end of North Market Street, Cordavi continues the tradition of hosting and promoting live local music started by its predecessor Vintage, possessing a perfect blend of ambience and intimacy to accentuate the exotic sound of The Kopaja Trio. Playing every Wednesday night from 8 to 11 p.m., the gents deliver what Kevin Hamilton describes as "more eclectic music like Björk and Klezmer rather than jazz."
When asked whether the trio threw musical themes into the mix for each performance, Koci elaborates on Kopaja's influences and what one should expect to hear upon a weekly visit: "The shows don't necessarily have themes, per se, but we do try to draw on a ton of different influences — everything from Klezmer music to jazz to sambas to Bulgarian music to Björk tunes. We try to keep it fairly open and not fall too far into any one pattern."
Just to keep everyone on their toes, Koci discloses that the trio aren't entirely exclusive with cameos by Morimoto's David Linaburg on guitar and Lindsay Holler's Michael Hanf (vibes) known to occur from time to time.
With the New Music Collective providing exposure to larger crowds, variety proves to be the spice of life for The Kopaja Trio, as Koci finds comfort at the opposite end of the spectrum as well. When asked which he preferred, Koci responds, "It all depends on the music that I'm playing. For acoustic jazz-type situations, the more intimate setting is usually real nice. Cordavi is an incredibly relaxed setting, and they're really great about letting us experiment a little bit, so it's really a great place to play."