Home to a variety of festivals and countless musicians, Wilmington celebrates music through many ways: Azalea Fest, Riverfest, Rims on the River and concert series events. Yet, what it doesn’t have is an all-encompassing, genre-bending festival dedicated solely to music and its main players.
In 2014 that will change.
Currently scheduled to take place on November 7th and 8th next year, Sonorous will celebrate all genres of music, with local and national musicians slated to perform. Founders Omar McCallop and Jeff Clark joined arms to bring the festival to life, and already contacted possible venue participants. The Whiskey, The Calico Room, Manna, Bottega, Gravity Records, Ziggys By the Sea, Brooklyn Arts Center and City Limits Saloon remain among contenders.
“Everyone was really excited about it,” McCallop reports from early meetings. “We are going to be in the neighborhood of about eight venues.”
Unlike any other festival in Wilmington, Sonorous will be set up similar to Raleigh’s Hopscotch, which hosts varied bands and styles across downtown Raleigh venues. The only difference in the first year of Sonorous is there won’t be a “main stage.” Though its founders looked into Greenfield Lake Amphitheater and different large-scope parking lots, they decided against either use. However, they do hope to grow into a music festival of that caliber.
“Most of what we are doing is going to be within a venue within a building,” McCallop notes. “We will speak to each venue about what type of bands they want there. We want them to have say, because they know what type of atmosphere they have cultivated over the years.”
Wilmington has been on McCallop’s radar for a while now. Because he’s the founder of Award Show Nation, which represents the Carolina Music Awards and Georgia Music Awards, it makes McCallop accessible to a wide range of people. After meeting Jeff Clark at the Carolina Music Awards in July (Clark’s son, James Ethan, won Best Rock Male, 2013), they exchanged ideas. With experience working as both a chairman and a volunteer with the Azalea Festival from 1991 through 2008, Clark’s experience in the festival world interested McCallop.
“That gave me someone who had a relationship with the music market,” McCallop says.
“I’ve gained this new love for downtown Wilmington,” Clark admits. “At 52 years old, I never thought I would be at The Whiskey. But if my son is playing, then I’m going to be there.”
Though bands have not been added officially, both McCallop and Clark will begin the search for the Sonorous lineup. While they’re placing high importance on local musicians, the festival will welcome players from all over, too. Also, as it grows, more genres will be added.
“I really have a big place in my heart for the band who is working hard and is talented,” McCallop says. “I want to locate, find and support that next Maroon 5 or Rascal Flatts. I’m not the person who is out to get that super big band. I look forward to seeing new talent.”
That being said, Sonorous will not feature one big headliner. “You never want to design a festival in the fashion where people say ‘let me see who the big artist will be,’” McCallops explains. “You’re coming to enjoy music, support Wilmington and North Carolina artists. We want to make sure we have artists from North Carolina as a whole [before] we open it up nationwide.”
“We want to give bands an opportunity to network,” Clark adds
Both McCallop and Clark find it important for all of Wilmington to get involved. Sponsorship packages will be sent out this October, and bands will have the chance to audition in the following months.
“We don’t have a formal application process because, between myself and Jeff, we know so many artists and bands,” McCallop notes. “We will send out e-mails and put information on websites for people who want to submit or are interested in playing the festival.”
Likewise, the planners place emphasis on giving back to our tight-knit community; thus, they’re brainstorming on how to involve charities. McCallop incorporates philanthropic concepts already by streaming his awards shows online for a low cost; then he donates proceeds to a charity.
He wants to do the same for the 2014 event.
“We always have some type of charity component to everything we do,” he ensures. “We just haven’t decided what that will be [for Sonorous].”
Still in early development, they’re saying the cost for wristbands will be sold at reasonable prices, any where from $15 to $30. They are slated to go on sale in July or August of next year. “We definitely want to make it affordable so everyone can attend,” McCallop says.