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Thursday, June 3, 2010 03:23 pm

SOHO number six

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The Micah Walk Band performs Friday, June 4, at 8 p.m.
When it comes to outdoor music festivals in Springfield, only one event supports live, original music with predominantly area talent. The SOHO Music Fest is a treasure chest of up and coming locals, out of town discoveries, tried and true troupers, soloists, combos, rockers, folkies, rappers and other varied assortments of alternative-edged performers creating random acts of self-directed artistic designs.

The little-festival-that-could started out as SoJo, a benefit concert for the Sojourn House organized by Eric Welch and Tara McKenzie-Carpenter in 2004. The years of growing pains include changing the recipient charitable organization and therefore the one letter in the festival name, dealing with authorities from the City of Springfield on issues from noise to cleanup, fighting with other downtown street parties that no longer exist, but once picked on the then fledgling festival, and the planning portion of the show that begins as one year’s festival ends and goes until the concluding cleanup of the next year’s event hours after the ending note rings out, the final beer goes down and the stragglers drift off to other destinations in full party completion mode.

“It’s always been a struggle to get it all together, but it’s always been worth it in the end,” said Welch, who split with McKenzie-Carpenter and now runs the show solo with an army of volunteers. “So many bands want to play. It’s really crazy to pick and choose and then do scheduling. But when it all comes together — seeing the crowd, watching the bands, giving money to charities — that’s really awesome.”

The overflow of thousands of people downtown benefits the live music scene as bands play after-SOHO parties at several clubs. In years past Welch helped organize shows for musicians donating their time to play at SOHO and create the donation funds, but now the bars and bands figured it out and just plan on it. Marly’s, Bar None, Norb Andy’s and Celtic Mist all normally book live entertainment, but during the SOHO Fest work to get bands playing at the festival to attract the particular crowds coming to see the variety of groups sharing the two street stages.

“We do the main stage with a smaller one set up on the street next to it to keep the music going without a break during band switches,” said Welch. “Usually more acoustic acts go on the street stage or ones that don’t need as much room and it just keeps the level up.”

All groups receive equal billing no matter the stage and extensive advertising gives the musicians press and prestige, always helpful in gaining bookings and generally spreading the word. Along with piles of posters, stacks of smaller cards and press in the papers, radio plays a big part in promotion with WLCE FM commonly known as Alice @ 97.7, proudly leading the procession across the airwaves. A Mid-West Family Broadcasting station espousing itself as “Springfield’s Music Alternative,” Molson and Josie are featured morning show hosts and you’ll see the popular radio personalities at SOHO broadcasting live. The very cool station also hosts Studio A, the only regular, live-on-air music program around and this week features SOHO performers Dan Hubbard (Tue., June 1 — you missed it) and Micah Walk (Thurs., June 3, 5 p.m.).    

Once again I managed to write all about the SOHO Music Festival but hardly mentioned any specific artists performing. Without wasting any more of your precious time on whom I prefer, may I suggest going to the SOHO My Space page and perusing listings of the 20 some performers for yourself. Or another and more entertaining solution is to show up both days for all the music and get yourself an education in local bands. Whatever your decision, look for sunshine or even better, overcast skies and keep SOHO free from downtown floods. “How high’s the water, Mama? She’s said, it’s five feet high and risin’.”

Contact Tom Irwin at tirwin@illinoistimes.com

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