There are few places where time flies the way as at this particular kind of superjampacked festival events like CASA’s festival flagship SoJam. The tenth (or Xth if you like) edition is over, everybody hugged everybody at least 2-3 times, the last men and women standing (well, more or less) crawled to a Downtown Raleigh Whiskey Bar (Aaron Sperber/The Exchange: “I hate Whiskey – but you must join us!”) and the married ones and other “soft-cxxxs” (idiom introduced by the Australian delegation) went home or to their hotel rooms.
It’s late at night, but I had countless wonderful and/or interesting conversations, which meant there was little time to drink, which means, that my beer consumption would make every German fellow countryman feel ashamed. Well, at least I can still remember that the local dark beer (Bad Penny Jenny…? So much for my remembering details) was very tasty. And two glasses of that “liquid US bread” plus a Raleigh Times Burger is the ideal doping for a late night Vocal Blog Post. Hello vocal music world, here are my X Favourite SoJamX Moments, hope you’ll enjoy them.
I. Angus Barn – the “SoJamX Appreciation Dinner” took place at a VERY American restaurant. Filet Mignon and a piece of cheesecake that was the equivalent of three European families’ weekly nutritional needs. Spectacular interior design. Surprise guests that made me happy: Aaron Sperber and Christopher Diaz from the up-and-coming “The Exchange“.
II. Scott Hoying – The tallest of five front(wo)men of the States’ latest a cappella wunderkind, Pentatonix. We skyped briefly short after their glorious victory at NBC’s Sing-off and it was nice to meet him in person. Do I have to mention that it was at the “SoJam VIP Luncheon” consisting of massive amount of Southern-style barbecue that made me swear to not eat again before the end of this weekend?
III. Thomas “TeKay” King – Many answers to the unavoidable but continuously asked question “How did you get into this a cappella thing” are rather banal: “Sang in a choir…started it while being in college…actually hated a cappella, but had nothing better to do…” When someone answers that his vocal music career begun in the late 80′s, i.e. the “Dark Ages before Deke Sharon invented music”, you better listen. Especially, when this person picks you up from Raleigh-Durham Airport and drives you right to the next eating event.
IV. FORK – and I mean all the seven members including their manager Linda, their sound engineer Greg and their lighting wizard Tobias. Kasper and I had a wonderfully tasteless oatmeal at the local Starbucks. And maybe the greatest moment for my self-esteem: I did not order chicken wings or Nachos at 1:30 am at the Sheraton hotel bar. A wise decision as it took the barkeeper 35 minutes to “prepare” them and – according to the Finnish gourmets – they tasted almost excactly but not quite unlike the Starbucks oatmeal.
V: Dave Sperandio – the most wonderful festival founder of all. Although he seduced me with 2.5 tons of Mr. Bojangles fried chicken and wild rice at the staff room. I forgot all dietary resolutions and did my duty in intercultural food and beverage exercises.
VI. The Sunday morning bagels – my US friends will forgive me that I believed – at least until Sunday morning at SoJamX, that American people are completely able to produce real bread. The bagels at North Carolina State University proved me wrong and I apologise for my obvious bias and ignorance. The walnut and honey cream cheese was another calorial detail I don’t want to miss here.
VII. Pentatonix – as one of the three groups of the “SoJamX professional showcase”, Pentatonix exceeded the hyped-up expectations. It is one of those incomprehensible wonders of the media and music industry, that one of the freshest and most innovative vocal groups that America has ever produced is the result of mainstream reality TV show by NBC. From the a cappella gourmet’s standpoint, Pentatonix is kind of a Rotary Sushi Bar 2.0 of A Cappella.
VIII. Benjamin “Professor” Stevens – the CASA’s educational mastermind’s lecture on “Essential Listening” is cult. And according to US guitarist Mick Goodrick’s bon mot that “Talking about music is like dancing about architecture”, this treat of a speech is a lecture through music and a masterpiece of subtle rhetoric. We have to bring the “Professor” to Europe somehow. Delicious, better than any 5.000 USD bottle of wine in the Angus Barn’s wine cellar.
IX. My SoJamX Souvenir Shirt – one reason to come to SoJam for the second time is that nowhere would one find a higher percentage of all US a cappella activists and professionals than at in North Carolina’s capital. And also I had to stop people from hugging and harmony by my ridiculous fan behavior, I’m now a proud owner of a unique piece of SoJamX merch, a festival t-shirt covered with the signatures of all those who have gained a total of 1.57 tons of additional weight due to the Southern festival diet, lack of exercise and hectoliters, sorry, gallons of beer, wine, champagne and (OMG – the day after…) gin & tonics.
X. The Monday After (yet to come) – tomorrow, I will eat healthy, work hard in my mobile office, do a proper Raleigh Vocal Jog and….will forget about all these stupid self-imposed rules as soon as someone offers me a “proper” steak, a “Tower Burger” or some other Southern delicacy. Thank you SoJamX, for giving me four wonderful days and taking care of an a cappella tourist (Yes, I had no actual job this time, only felt strange very briefly). And for a good reason for a proper workout when I’m back in good old Freiburg.
Florian Städtler is founder and editior-in-chief of Vocal Blog, co-founder of Acappellazone and Chairman of the European Voices Association. He rarely drinks gin tonics, but makes exceptions for special occasions like late night business meetings with Scandinavian business partners.