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Wednesday, May 30, 2007 06:24 am

What’s in a name?

SOJO becomes SOHO, but it’s mostly the same

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Untitled Document Would a tree still be a tree if we called it a rock? Would a kiss still be a kiss if we said it was a burp? Would jellybeans be jellybeans if we named them road apples? I’m sure you get the point: Everything is what it is, no matter what we call it. So if you’ve noticed that the annual SOJO Music Fest in downtown Springfield is now being called the SOHO Music Fest, don’t worry: Nothing has changed but a letter.
The two-day event, started three years ago by local songster Eric Welch and event manager Tara Stapleton-McKinzie, features a nice variety of area bands and singer/songwriters, from the up-and-coming to the established. The entertainment takes up a main stage and side stage, providing for nearly continuous live music. The musicians play for free. For the last two years, proceeds from the concert went to our local Sojourn House, but after a strange set of occurrences — including mysterious online money swindlers from Peru, bounced checks, failed donations, miscommunications, and trademark-infringement threats from lawyers — Sojourn House decided to disassociate itself from the festival, going as far as to prohibit the use of the name SOJO. Undeterred, Welch and Stapleton-McKinzie renamed the event the SOHO Music Fest, directed proceeds to the Mini O’Beirne Crisis Nursery, and continued with the multitude of tasks involved in mounting an event of this caliber and magnitude. (The wiseguy in me keeps thinking, why not tell everyone that SOJO is pronounced in the Spanish way, but then I remember what Illinoisans did with “San Jose.”)  “It was originally named for Sojourner Truth and not the Sojourn shelter anyway,” Welch says, “but since they have been affiliated for consecutive years with the fest they can lay claim to the name SOJO, even without ever coming up with it themselves or having to lift a finger to plan, organize, or manage the event.”
Despite the misunderstandings and misgivings, the show must go on — and what a show it is. Despite being a privately run operation with no government backing whatsoever, put on by people with no previous concert-promotion experience, the festival is a great success: The bands run on time, the sound is pleasant both in volume and content, and most of the groups are playing original music. Most important, it’s a fine downtown event with hot food, cold beer, and live music. Who cares what you call it?
The SOHO Music Fest runs from 4 p.m.-midnight Friday and Saturday, June 1 and 2, on Washington Street between Fifth and Sixth streets on the north side of the Old State Capitol. Admission is $5.

Contact Tom Irwin at tirwin@illinoistimes.com.
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