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CO-OP: Building A New Ideal

CO-OP: Building A New Ideal

Jesse Haswell

September 19th, 2020

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For rappers Nick Sanville and Phonosapien music has been a way of life since childhood. “I came out of my mother’s womb trying to write music. Just from the get-go”, elaborates Phonosapien. He goes on to say that he started trying to write music around age 6 or 7. It started out with an NSYNC style of writing but changed toward rap when his elder sister went off to college and left him with all her rap records. That in turn helped steer him in a new direction. That new direction was rap.

Both Nick and Phonosapien say that they only knew how to write horror-core lyrics until they discovered artists like Atmosphere and Eyedea which opened them up to other styles of rap. That transition included visiting online hip-hop forums that allowed like-minded individuals to interact with each other. “One thing led to another and I ended up moving to Colorado. I have just met so many people here it has been an easy path to follow in terms of continuing to make music. Honestly, it would be harder to not do it for sure,” Nick explains. An event called Groundwaves inspired them to start CO-OP.

Groundwaves is an open mic that Murs began hosting in June 2019 in collaboration with The Music District in Fort Collins. Nick and Phonosapien saw a need for such an event after rappers from all over Colorado showed up for a chance to rap in front of Murs. However, they wanted to take it to the next stage. Literally. The stage at the Music District could not even really be called that. It did not have a PA system nor did space allow for a large audience. The stage was a slightly raised platform in the corner of a room with a microphone and a few speakers. CO-OP needed something more.

Hodi’s Half Note was that something more. There was a real stage with a real PA system and stage lights. Hodi’s gave the rap/hip hop community an opportunity to perform in front of an actual crowd. The best part was, there was no pay-to-play requirement like other venues have. Rappers could sign up for the open mic at the CO-OP. Nick and Phonosapien both know what it is like to be the first to go on stage and perform. An experience like that is nerve-wracking. They wanted to be different so the shows would open with a song from either Phonosapien or Nick who would perform to warm up the audience. The event quickly grew to where there would be over 100 people at the open mic who would either perform or were there to support the artists. Sadly, right as CO-OP was picking up steam, tragedy struck.

COVID-19 has been a tragedy unlike any other to date. Forced closures have affected people in every industry. However, the music industry has been particularly affected. Venues nationwide have been forced to close their doors. Hodi’s Half Note is one such victim. Nick was working as a bartender/manager for Hodi’s when the pandemic struck. As an employee, he had the opportunity to suggest events such as CO-OP for the venue. With the closure of Hodi’s and other venues not being able to open their doors, CO-OP shut down as well. That was short-lived as Nick found work at Moxi in Greeley, CO. A new chance was born to revitalize CO-OP.

On Saturday, September 12, 2020, CO-OP started back up. The turn out was impressive considering the restrictions in place and the new location. About 50 people had shown up to support the acts that were performing. There was no open-mic since the logistics of doing an open-mic safely still need to be worked out. However, Phonosapien put it this way, “Our first show in Greeley did better than our worst show in Fort Collins”. That show was just the beginning.

Moxi has some cool features that allow CO-OP to try new things. One of those things is live streaming the show using Moxi’s 3 camera setup. This allows a larger number of people to take part while adhering to social distancing requirements. They also are thinking up different solutions for having an open-mic return. These solutions range from asking artists to bring their own mics or swapping out cones and sanitizing between performances.

When asked what their plan was for future events Nick had this to say, “It’s every month. We’re doing it monthly from now on. I think the next one we are looking at doing it on the 16th or 17th of October”. But they are not just stopping there. They are already thinking of a big one-time event to recap the CO-OP shows that happened throughout the year. That could take the form of a festival-type event where each artist that took part in the CO-OP events over the past year could get a full set. Another idea they have is to host a showcase style show.

There are still many details to work out so Nick and Phonosapien are focusing on rebuilding CO-OP. One goal they have right now is to get CO-OP in multiple cities. They already have access to the Moxi, but Nick is also talking with The Coast who took over the Downtown Artery ground level for a possible location to host CO-OP in Fort Collins. The Coast is just down the street from where CO-OP got its start so it would be ideal.

What is CO-OP? “It’s an ideal. To me, CO-OP is an ideal”, Phonosapien explained. CO-OP continues to help local acts prepare for larger shows. Artists can perform on a real stage in front of real people without paying for a spot on the bill. Additionally, CO-OP is also a way for the venue to efficiently find local acts to open for national artists. CO-OP is special because it is changing the narrative that smaller acts need to buy stage time to get exposure. The community is helping the community grow. The ideal that Phonosapien was talking about is in the very name: CO-OP.

Photos By Jesse Haswell

Find Artist On:

FACEBOOK: Nick Sanville, Phonosapien

SOUNDCLOUD: http://www.soundcloud.com/allelomorph

SPOTIFY: Nick Sanville

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