SoFar Sounds brings new music platforms to C-U


Photo Courtesy of Eddy Wong

Local scenes from performances hosted by the C-U branch of SoFar Sounds. SoFar Sounds is a national movement to host music acts in smaller venues.

By Meral Aycicek, Staff writer

It’s around 9 p.m. in Champaign. Roughly 30 people are crammed into a tiny apartment on Chalmers Street, facing attentively toward a makeshift stage where Cii La’Cole stands, performing her last song of the night. The light catches her glittery eyeliner and makes it sparkle as she nods along to the music.

Jan. 27 marked the date of the second event hosted by SoFar Sounds in C-U. SoFar Sounds is a global music movement aimed at “bringing the magic back to live music,” according to their website.

A Champaign branch of the movement was established last fall under the leadership of Landen Rosenbloom, junior in FAA and city director of SoFar sounds for C-U. Rosenbloom said he wanted to bring SoFar Sounds to the C-U area after interning with the company in Chicago last summer.

“SoFar Sounds is a global community that centers around supporting the artist and providing the audience members with a new experience, both musical and cultural. It allows people to really focus on music as a craft and artists as a community,” Rosenbloom said.

The movement started in London in 2009. Rosenbloom said the founders were unhappy with the music scene because of the environment that surrounded it.

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“They felt like people were too distracted from the music, like artists weren’t given the amount of respect they deserved,” Rosenbloom said. “They felt like an audience member who really wanted to go and enjoy the music couldn’t to do so because people were talking or they were on their phones or getting too drunk.”

As a result, the founders started hosting small concerts in people’s living rooms and having local artists play. This spread first to Paris, then to other cities. Today, SoFar Sounds exists in over 300 cities in 60 countries around the world.

Although the movement itself is huge, especially in big cities like Chicago, not many people know about it in C-U.

“A challenge that every city faces starting off is that because we really don’t allow people to have their phones out during shows, a lot of people refrain from posting on social media about us. Most of our audience members hear about us through word of mouth,” Rosenbloom said.

Acquiring a ticket for a SoFar event is also unconventional. Instead of purchasing a ticket, one has to apply through the SoFar website.  The location of the event and the performers are kept secret during the application process. It is up to the applicant how much they want to pay for the ticket, with a $5 minimum.

Kathleen Keene, graduate student in Veterinary Medicine, attended a SoFar event in January. She said she appreciated the mystery leading up to the event.

“I like the idea of not knowing where you’re going and who is playing beforehand. It keeps it exciting,” Keene said.

Keene heard about SoFar through word of mouth. She said she usually goes to big concerts so she wasn’t sure if she would like SoFar.

“I thought the music was very raw, and I liked the variety. I went to another concert on Monday at the Canopy Club and I feel like SoFar is a different experience. People appreciate the music more. I also like the idea of going for the music as opposed to going for the concert experience,” Keene said.

SoFar’s Champaign branch is growing quickly under Rosenbloom. There are about 10 people who work under him. These people assist Rosenbloom in finding venues, as well as artists who fit their “sound.”

“Most of our sets are unplugged because people are sitting right in front of you. A really heavy trap artist might not be the right fit for SoFar because their style of music is to pump people up, it’s the kind of music you would listen to at a party. At SoFar we certainly have hip-hop and rap artists but it’s a different vibe,” Rosenbloom said.

SoFar also works closely with CTRL+V, an RSO at the University. CTRL+V films and photographs SoFar’s events, as well as manages SoFar’s social media and advertising.

Grace Brennan, senior in Media, runs all of SoFar’s social media accounts through CTRL+V.

“SoFar just came to campus at the beginning of this school year. I’ve been working with them since then, trying to get more followers. Landen came to us and asked for some help. We started looking into the whole program and what it means and decided it would be a cool thing to work with,” Brennan said.

Rosenbloom wants to expand SoFar to the point where they can hold multiple shows a month.

“The goal right now is to do one show a month for a little while, and then eventually we’ll grow to two a month, then three a month. Once I graduate I’m looking to pass this off to somebody else who wants to be city director,” Rosenbloom said.

The January show featured Euriah, an emo-rock band from Champaign; Cii La’Cole, a soul singer with a background in gospel, jazz and blues; and The Phantom Broadcast, a collective that creates music alternative rock influenced by multiple other genres.

The next SoFar event is at 8 p.m. on Feb. 26.

“SoFar creates a really cool environment for music lovers. I know everyone thinks they love music, but SoFar is for people who really love music, people who want to hear new music, people who want to meet the artists. I don’t think anyone will be disappointed that they went,” Brennan said.

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