DURHAM – The Art of Cool Festival kicked off Friday, celebrating its five-year anniversary in downtown Durham. Each year, the festival brings a unique energy to the city and this year was no exception. As Black Wall Street events and American Underground’s Black Founders Exchange came to a close, the Art of Cool took over.

Early Friday morning, during soundcheck, the harmonic voices of AOCFEST performers could be heard bellowing from Durham Bulls Athletic Park throughout American Tobacco Campus.

Packs of students could also be seen bouncing around ATC from program to program as Innovate Your Cool offered them the chance to learn coding, music production and other STEAM-related activities.

IYC has run for the past three years as day-time programming in conjunction with The Art of Cool Project’s mission to uplift communities and expand horizons through music and technology.

WRAL TechWire photo

Festival goers enjoy delicious cocktails at the Innovate Your Cool Happy Hour at 21c Museum Hotel, sponsored by Facebook.

As day turned into night, the energy dispersed to the various venues, unleashing the AOCFEST crowd onto the streets of downtown. A mix of VIP sessions and community events peppered the evening schedule leading up to the headline shows at DBAP and other big performances.

Friday’s top billing included hip-hop violinist Damien Escobar, r&b talent and AOCFest alumnus Anthony Hamilton, and neo soul sensation Maxwell.

(Check out this photo: https://www.instagram.com/p/BoTFEiIgLGm/?taken-by=aocfest )

At the Durham Armory, producer Sango displayed a true gift for the art, blending a variety of hip-hop, dance, trap and house tracks into an electric DJ set

His performance was the perfect segue into 95 Live with 9th Wonder and Spinderella. The duo, along with a host of other DJs, shut it down, playing all the classics and packing out the Durham Armory wall to wall with an enthusiastic late night party crowd.

(See the moment: https://www.instagram.com/p/BoTBNpcg_TP/?taken-by=aocfest )

95 Live closed out AOCFEST day one on an intense high that will surely carry over into another full day of programming and performances.

And the action continues today.

For a full schedule and more information, visit aocfestival.com.

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