As the daughter of longtime Denver music fixture and Colfax Museum founder Jonny Barber, Sophia Barber was bound to work in the music business. Jonny took Barber to a lot of concerts throughout her childhood, and during her time at George Washington High School, she put on her own shows.
After graduating from high school, Barber moved to Los Angeles in 2018 to study in the University of Southern California’s music-industry program. She met St. Louis native Sophie Moser in the program, and the two went on to form Sophia Productions, their own event production company, in January 2020.
A few months later, the COVID-19 pandemic shut down most of the entertainment industry, with Barber and Moser eventually moving back to their hometowns while taking classes virtually through USC. Although they didn’t put on any concerts in the past year, in October they launched That’s Showbiz, Baby!, a weekly podcast where they explore the music industry through interviews, music news and history, how-tos and new-music discovery.
The two also just teamed up to present Bummerfest, a virtual concert, at 6 p.m. March 13, the anniversary of USC shutting its doors and the country going on lockdown.
“Bummerfest kind of grew from this idea that virtual concerts were really a bummer,” Moser says. “There’s obviously a lot lacking from what we would normally have. And we kind of just played with that idea. We wanted to make it kind of funny and ironic, like, virtual concerts suck, but we're still going to do one, and it's a bummer, but we're still gonna make it fun. That was the concept for the show.”
That concept caught on quickly, and they ended up booking six acts, all USC students or alumni, including Guspy, Amir Kelly, Lizzy Cameron, Ella Collier, Tippy Balady and Walkabout. The artists were filmed on a ranch in Los Angeles.
Barber says the theme for the event is that the music was "just sad enough for you to cry, but hype enough for you to dance through the tears.”
“We looked around at our USC community, and we wanted it to be a USC-focused event with a team at our university, but that also has broad appeal because it's virtual, so anyone from anywhere can log on and join,” Barber says. “These artists kind of fit the vibe we were going for. It's not based on the specific genre — some of them are solo artists, some of them are bands — but just the kind of mellow, happy-sad vibe.”
Once the entertainment industry gears up again, Barber says, she and Moser would love to start hosting in-person events again.
"There's just nothing like the feeling of not many people in the room listening to music or art," Barber says. "We’d also really love for our events to combine different art forms with music. So it's a concert and having artists and vendors selling their work. Before the pandemic, we were working on a gala for a short film, a student short film, and it was their release party, and we were working on that, and they wanted to have a band. So, in my vision, there would be a lot of events that combine different types of art."
Bummerfest, with Guspy, Amir Kelly, Lizzy Cameron, Ella Collier, Tippy Balady and Walkabout, takes place at 6 p.m. Saturday, March 13, online. Admission is $5. Festival merchandise can be purchased here.
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