Concert proves it’s about the music

The Concert Night and Art Show was a free event that showcased student artwork and performances from Bay Area bands in honor of raising awareness for human rights, workers’ rights and labor laws in Sonoma County.

Art pieces ranging from photographs to handcrafted drawings reflecting natural themes lined the back wall with front row seating and a few tables and chairs for students to sit and mingle Friday night.

According to Mo Phillips, associate director of student development at Sonoma State University, there was an expectancy of close to 100 people to attend the event. Only about 30 people showed up.

“We need better advertising,” said freshman Sophia Chavez. “Free pizza, cookies and music? More people would come if it was more well-known.”

Sonoma State is known for being one of the smallest campuses in the California State University system. 

This is a setting that tends to attract students for classroom intimacy, inclusive housing environments and opportunities to get involved on campus beyond academics.

The Student Center and Green Music Center offer platforms for students to showcase their talents and participate in events that reflect campus culture. 

Part of that campus culture includes the interests of its students, including those who may not conform to “mainstream” society.

“We need to be more musically charismatic because it’s really important,” said Chavez. “We as Sonoma students have the opportunity to provide that with our venues.”

The Concert Night and Art Show featured bands with an alternative/punk/post-hardcore/metal sound, a range of genres that are not typically seen in most Sonoma State concert events. 

This had to do with the fact the event was organized by a Sonoma State student, rather than Associated Students Productions.

“Our campus doesn’t have very many events featuring this kind of music and I think Devin really wanted to get some students out there,” said Phillips. “He organized it all. We are just here to staff the event.”

Devin Luis, a history major in his final semester at Sonoma State, had been organizing the concert since October. The event was constantly pushed back due to scheduling conflicts and was finally able to happen on Friday. 

Originally from San Jose, Luis grew up with a strong influence of music that followed him to Sonoma State. 

He used to DJ in his free time and tried to create a club on campus for people who wanted to practice and learn; however, the costs to keep the club running were too expensive. 

He then began to try to create an opportunity for students to express themselves through the arts without having to pay a fee. Luis was eventually able to execute the event with the help of Rhonda Nilsson, the student event scheduling coordinator, and Phillips with the rest of the Associate Student Productions staff for free to all students. 

“It’s not about making money off students,” said Luis. “It’s about the music.” 

In addition to free music for students, Luis wanted to emphasize the issue of low wages for college students and residents of Sonoma County. 

By contacting the bands that were in the lineup through Facebook, Luis emphasized the importance of human and labor rights and how he wanted that to be implemented in their performances. 

“I feel like minimum wage should be higher for students and community members,” said Luis. “Where I’m from, minimum wage is $10. It’s hard for people to live off of anything less than that, especially college students.”

Although some of the bands were unable to show due to the weather, there were three bands that entertained the audience for the evening. Specimen, a band that Luis is a part of, performed the opening set, following with A Hero to Fall, a local band from Santa Rosa, and Throwing Rocks, from Oakland. 

Most of the audience stayed seated in the chairs and tables during the performances, nodding their heads and tapping their feet to the beat. 

Although this type of setup is appropriate for most music performances and concerts, alternative and hardcore bands feed off of the energy the audience gives them by standing up and gathering toward the stage. 

“Local bands need more energy,” said Chavez. “I almost want to just go up there myself and get into it. They need a lot more than just people sitting in the audience.”

Even though the event had a smaller turnout than expected, the audience revealed a large appreciation for the music and energy the bands radiated from the stage. 

By the end of the night, the crowd gathered around the stage while jumping around and nodding their heads to the beat, proving the Concert Night and Art Show was successful.