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Wednesday, June 4, 2008 04:20 am

So far, so good for SOHO fest

Popular annual music festival takes place this Friday and Saturday

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The SOHO Music Festival returns Friday and Saturday, June 6-7, from 4 p.m.-midnight.

Ladies and gentlemen, children of all ages, it’s time once again for the SOHO Music Festival, or what I like to call “the Little Fest That Could.” From humble beginnings as the dream of Eric Welch and Tara McKenzie, the downtown charity music festival is now in its fourth year and looking stronger than ever. Last year the audience totaled around a couple of thousand, every year, Welch says, the numbers have increased by about half. Not to say it’s all been a piece of cake for the independent-minded organizers. Several obstacles and inherent growing pains, including a forced name change and scheduling conflicts with other downtown events, have posed challenges, but this year’s show is shaping up to be the best and brightest so far. Of all the worries the two have to think about in running a two-day festival, old Mother Nature still holds the key to a successful event. “I’ve been checking the weather forecasts everyday,” says McKenzie. “It affects us more than anything, but it looks like it’s going to be nice.”
Without preselling tickets, the two have no way of gauging the audience until the crowd shows up, but, if the participation of bands and performers is any indication, the 2008 festival will be a real success. “We’ve had lots and lots of request to play. It’s just crazy,” says Welch. “Ninety percent of the groups are local, and the others have played in town before — I like to see the bands live before we set the schedule.”
As the event has grown into a respectable, legitimate downtown experience, Welch and McKenzie have found sponsors to help defray the costs of insurance, rental of sound and lighting equipment, advertising, and other miscellany necessary to putting on a music festival. All proceeds are donated to the Mini O’Beirne Crisis Center; the musicians give freely of their time for an opportunity to play for a good cause in front of several hundred excited music fans. Welch and McKenzie also have about 50 volunteers to help with everything from setup to tear-down. “Without our volunteer staff it just wouldn’t fly,” Welch says. “Everybody there believes in it, and that’s what makes it happen. We just get a little Springfield street for a couple of days and have fun with it.”
From posters and T-shirts designed by friends and family to the musicians and volunteers donating their time to play and run the show, a we’re-all-in-this-together, do-it-yourself feeling permeates the shindig. The festival is a wonderful counterpoint to other downtown music events with considerably bigger budgets and intentions geared more toward larger crowds and nationally known acts. “I want to make it so every one can have good time and support local causes,” says Welch. “It doesn’t matter if you have all the glitz and glamour. People come to hear the music and check out some real stuff.”

The SOHO Music Festival runs 4 p.m.-midnight Friday and Saturday, June 6 and 7, on Washington Street between Fifth and Sixth streets. Tickets, which cost $5, are available at the door. Sponsors include the Celtic Mist Pub, Samuel Music, the Springfield Tractor Supply, and Illinois Times.

Contact Tom Irwin at tirwin@illinoistimes.com.
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