Location: 199 W 8thAve Eugene, OR 97401
I made contact with Alec Cox of Cozmic, but was ultimately unable to interview him. When we spoke briefly on November 14th, he did say that Cozmic has a different style of show every night, that their booking choices are “event-driven,” and that Cozmic has “a mad commitment to not lock itself into a genre.” Karen Rainsong of Eugene a-go-go and Arts & Business Alliance of Eugene (more info here) also made mention of Alec’s commitment to supporting local causes, so it appears that events such as the Celebrate Africa fundraiser, which I attended on 11/17/12, are somewhat common.
Celebrate Africa was an all-day event, its programming taking place at both Cozmic and the University of Oregon. At Cozmic, events included a marimba class, live music and dance performances, and a Fair Trade Goods Sale, where local nonprofits with connections to Africa sold their wares. This was more of a festival than a concert, and by its very nature required the direct engagement of audience. The event was well attended; at about 8 pm I would estimate approximately 150 attendees. I saw two bands during the evening: Denbaya Drum and Dance and The Solutions. Throughout both performances, I saw many patrons dance and commune with friends. It was the most demonstrated sense of community I’ve seen at any event I’ve attended in Eugene in the short time I’ve lived here. There was a palpable sense of joy and camaraderie. Audience members ranged in age from small children to 60s, and the crowd was more ethnically diverse than a random sampling of Eugene residents would likely yield.
Audience members cheered when the musicians soloed, and performers in both bands spoke to the audience throughout their sets. Mayor Kitty Piercy addressed the audience between the two bands, talking about her appreciation for the event and her personal connection to Africa through travel with the Peace Corps years ago.
While the format of the event strongly contributed to the sense of community at Celebrate Africa, the inviting atmosphere of Cozmic must be considered. The décor is quite different than an average rock club of the same size (it has a 350-person capacity), which follows logic since it is also a restaurant. Giudici describes the process of turning a once-car dealership into a performance space and restaurant on the website this way: “This is a 4000-sq ft room and a big room requires big art. But I keep the artistic parameters to recycled or repurposed materials.” The first thing I noticed upon entering the facility were large orange swaths of fabric draping from the ceiling, lanterns, and funky, upcycled dryer drum light fixtures. Though there are a lot of tables, for this show, at least, a large floor area in front of the stage was cleared for dancing.
The venue hosts live music nearly every day of the week. Owner Kirk Giudici says this about Cozmic (here) : “Our all-ages room can host a recital in the afternoon, a local musician during happy hour, and a regional or national act later, then tomorrow a fundraiser. There is a lot going on here and we are constantly evolving to embrace what our community asks for.” Community engagement is Cozmic’s goal, and it shows.