New Orleanians launch ‘Sofa King Fest’ virtual festival experience during coronavirus pandemic

From the postponement of big music festivals to the recent citywide shutdown of bars, restrictions from Louisiana state and city officials to slow the spread of COVID-19 have become necessary precautions — but still, a sad song ringing in the ears of New Orleans musicians and music lovers.

In response, some New Orleanians with ties to the music industry have partnered for a new initiative called “Sofa King Fest” in hopes of playing a more positive tune.

Essentially, the organizers of Sofa King Fest want to take the festival experience online, in the wake of the coronavirus crisis.

Organizers call the platform “an emergency response online music and arts directory,” as many workers across industries find creative ways to tackle income loss and offer resources for the housebound — including curing boredom.

Photo courtesy: Sofa King Fest

“Sofa King Fest is your one-stop source for all your couch streaming concert options. Think festival grid meets TV Guide,” according to the Sofa King Fest website.

Organizers describe the launch as a way for musicians to livestream intimate performances “to support themselves, their band and crew members after industry-wide cancellations,” the site says.

More than 100 acts have already signed up within 48 hours of the launch — including Melissa Etheridge, who surprisingly filled out the online form, said Travis Laurendine, one of the organizers.

Several New Orleans acts are also set to perform including Freedia, Tank & The Bangas, The Soul Rebels, Sweet Crude, Pell, The Suffers, Esther Rose, Quickie Mart, Robin Barnes, Flow Tribe, SOUL Brass Band, Mike Doussan, The Quickening, Tony Skratchere, J & The Causeways, Colin Lake, among others.

Laurendine said they talked to managers and acts from all over to start filling the lineup, with a formal announcement coming soon.

In a city known for festivals, it only makes sense that the idea for Sofa King Fest was born from New Orleans.

New Orleans music professionals are the brains behind the initiative including Reid Martin, co-founder of MidCitizen Entertainment, an artist management firm with clients including Big Freedia and Tank and the Bangas.

Other professionals responsible for the project include Travis Laurendine, Universal Music and SXSW’s Hackathon Producer; JT Gleason, the first employee of and Nicki Gilbert, global director of business development at Ace Hotel, a hot spot for musicians in New Orleans.

Here’s how Sofa King Fest says the process will work:

“Sofa King Fest will curate a “main stage” experience with a long and eclectic roster of artists performing while also offering a TV Guide meets music festival grid featuring all the streaming sets around the globe that we can find. Performances will be searchable by genre, location, cause, etc.”

Proceeds will go directly to the artists, or the charity of their choosing, organizers say.

“We want musicians to help people cope with this pandemic by bringing the healing power of music in one time only live streams via their favorite platform to,” Laurendine said.

Musicians interested in participating can sign up using an online form via the website.

“We also want musicians to use this time to embrace technology, and we give extra special thanks to the developers and designers who have helped build this platform over the last 72 hours,” Laurendine said.

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