Smile Politely

Audiofeed is coming back with a bang

Audiofeed Music Festival is finally back after two years of cancelations. COVID-19 shut the fest down in 2020 and 2021, but now founder Jim Eisenmenger and crew are ready to bring the music back to Champaign-Urbana. The festival this year is loaded with incredible acts, including Pedro the Lion, Rosie Thomas, Flatfoot 56, and many more. I met Eisenmenger and interviewed him last year before the fest was shut down, and he was kind of enough to answer many of my same questions again this year. 

Smile Politely: How did Audiofeed start?

Jim Eisenmenger: I was a long-time attendee of Cornerstone Festival, which was solid music, but connected with me much more deeply in the community that gathered there.  Anyone, friend or complete stranger, was welcome to grab a chair or share a meal at any camp. It felt like a different world, and in many ways, what the world should be. Cornerstone announced prior to their 2012 festival that it would be their last, and many like me did not want to lose that space. A handful of us got together and pulled together the first Audiofeed in 2013 with only three months of planning. About a week before that first event, we had eight tickets pre-sold. It was harrowing, but we had a strong late push and it came off well and it’s grown since then.

SP: You had to cancel the last two festivals – what is the process like of planning a festival with these new uncertainties and potential cancellations? How does that affect planning?

Eisenmenger: Needless to say, it’s a challenge. There wasn’t really a choice in 2020, and in 2021, we delayed things — normally early July as is it this year (June 30-July 3), but we pushed it to September when planning over the winter anticipating that would give more time for vaccines to take effect. But that put us right at the peak of the Delta surge. Our philosophy is that there are smarter people than us (CDC and local health officials) telling us what we should do, and we trust them. We were not prepared to pivot in response to Delta to meet that guidance, and canceling 2021 was a difficult, last minute decision. Among our steps this year is to move our main stage outdoors rather than hold it in the exhibition hall at the fairgrounds. We’re continuing to watch local guidance.

Image from Audiofeed’s Facebook page.

SP: Will the festival look different from the fests before COVID? Playing off of that, how has the festival changed since its formation?

Eisenmenger: Compared to our start, bigger, more diverse: rock, punk, metal, hip-hop, folk – lots of styles represented on four stages.  Cornerstone was progressive socially, but explicitly Christian.  We started along those lines, and still honor that legacy, but have evolved in our own lives and in the event to be more faith-adjacent than explicitly Christian.  Like it or not – some of us do, some do not – faith and religion is inescapable in our world, and certainly in the US. We have to acknowledge that to be self-aware as a country and hopefully find some peace and comfort in elements of it. You could attend the entire event and not connect it to faith, but for those who listen closely there’s a thread in who we book and who we attract that brings in a healthy mix of questions and discussion about community, love, acceptance, and how faith can aid or hinder that greater effort to connection. First and foremost, we’re about great music and great people to hang out with. All the rest is just in the background if you want to go deeper.

SP: Will there still be camping this year?

Eisenmenger: Yes, tent camping is included in the general admission, and RV camping is available for an additional ticket price. Parking on grounds is also included in the price.

Image from Audiofeed’s Facebook page.

SP: Are you a fan of all of the acts? How do you balance booking artists that you like, versus artists that you may think are just okay, but the crowd enjoys?

Eisenmenger: I stay out of the booking process personally, because I do get too influenced by who I’d want to see. We’re so diverse, there’s definitely genres and artists anyone would favor over others.  But I enjoy and appreciate it all. I think the best thing about an event with four stages and around 100 acts over four days is the chance to see shows that you would never otherwise choose, and to be exposed to new discoveries in genre and artists. I see those unknown new discoveries to be as important as the headliners. Some personal favorites that might not be commonly known, but should not be missed are Narrow/Arrow, Jay Joseph, Christiana Benton, Must Build Jacuzzi, Revisionist — the full lineup and lineup by day is on our website.

SP: Who are some of your personal favorite acts that are booked this year?

Eisenmenger: David Eugene Edwards of Wovenhand is doing a solo set on Friday, July 1st.  Wovenhand has been on my bucket list of bands to see live for years, so I’m excited about that. Saturday is loaded, and is the day that I think will be most attractive to locals for single day tickets – we offer full fest and single day tickets – Propaganda, Listener, Rosie Thomas, Pedro The Lion, local favorites Terminus Victor and Bristle, and dozens of others. Single day tickets are available online and at the gate. The main event July 1-3 is currently $70 online, +$10 for early access on June 30. $35 single day, prices will increase $10-15 at the gate. We also have a limited number of discounted full event and single day tickets available at Exile, cheaper than the current online price.

Image from Audiofeed’s Facebook page.

SP: What do you hope people will take away from the festival?

Eisenmenger: A good time. Life is not easy, and the past two years have really highlighted that. Hopefully people come away having discovered new artists, made new friends, and with a glimpse into a way to live that doesn’t pit us against each other.

Audiofeed Music Festival runs July 1-July 3 with early access on June 30th. Head to their website to find the full lineup of artists including daily lineups, purchase tickets, and find more information.

Top image provided by Jim Eisenmenger.

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