On a brisk night on the second floor rooftop of the Hillel Center for Jewish Life, the Sofar Sound team put together a wonderful atmosphere filled with laughs, bright lights, and most importantly, good music. I went to this show not knowing quite what to expect, especially since it was organized to be at what I would typically consider a pretty straight edge place, as Hillel is a religious center. But as the show went on, I questioned why I would even doubt the possibility of the show because after all, this is Sofar Sounds. For those who don’t know, Sofar Sounds is a worldwide organization that throws intimate, secret, shows in random venues, from Istanbul to Sacramento and Champaign is one of the lucky places to be able to host these shows thanks to the volunteer Sofar staff in the area. Sofar Sound’s goal is to get music lovers together to enjoy and appreciate music. People do not go to drink or to socialize (although it’s a great place to do both if you wish), but to enjoy the music in its purest form. This was also a special night for the Sofar Sound team, as it was the last show of the year and also the last show for their current ambassador Landen Rosenbloom, who will be succeeded by U of I student Charlie Nudelman. I had no idea what to expect for this performance; did I mention that the performers are kept secret too? But I was not let down. The intimate crowd was gifted 3 wonderful, diverse performers that warmed up the night.
The Giving Moon
The first act of night night was an Alternative Rock band from Chicago who made the 2 hour trip down here to share their youthful energy with us. It was clear they knew how to work a crowd, as they’ve performed in legendary venues such as the House of Blues and The Metro in years past. Their sound is familiar to those who are fans of alternative rock, but it is still different all in its own way. I could easily see the giving moon at the top of the charts with their wonderfully performed original songs sang by their jumpy lead guitarist. The whole crowd could not help but sway back and forth to the rhythm of the beat, getting the night off to a great start.
After The Giving Moon’s performance and a five minute break to transform the stage area, Jack Red provided an ever-so-smooth transition from rock to soulful R&B. Jack Red is an producer, engineer, artist that also made the two hour trip down here from Chicago to sing for us. He let us experience his amazing, angelic voice over the soft melodies of his piano player and the rhythm of pre-recorded drums. His comforting tone warmed up the air and made the already intimate crown a little more intimate. He originally was only supposed to sing three songs, but even outside on a cold night the crowd insisted he give us more, and he ended up performing five. His sang about love, heartbreak, despair, loneliness, happiness, and just about every emotion he expressed resonated soundly with the crowd.
If you would like to learn more about Jack Red, click here.
When Nashville, Tennessee Folk artist Wes Kirkpatrick took the stage, the show quickly transformed into an atmosphere that akin to a campfire. Because he only had an acoustic guitar, we had to get in tight around him to hear, but getting a bit warmer didn’t sound like a bad idea at all. Wes Kirkpatrick soothed the audience with nothing but his guitar and his voice. He sang about loneliness and the struggles of being on the road all the time (he’s been on the road for 10 years), but in between songs and with a smile on his face, he reassured us that he’s not actually a sad person, but just likes writing sad songs. The softness of his voice conveyed more intimacy throughout the crowd, all of us sitting quietly and taking in the deep feeling of his songs. I closed my eyes for a brief second and naturally imagined the show in the middle of the night around a campfire in the woods and I was overcome with a sense of peace, despite the cold weather. It was the perfect end to the night