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Wednesday, December 01, 2021

Gainesville celebrates SOPHIE’s legacy with dance party

The Wooly lit up in shimmer and vibrance Oct. 15 to celebrate the late music visionary

<p>Patrons gather on the strobe-lit dance floor during The Wooly&#x27;s SOPHIE tribute, held Oct. 15.</p>

Patrons gather on the strobe-lit dance floor during The Wooly's SOPHIE tribute, held Oct. 15.

Walking into The Wooly felt like entering a colorful smoke cloud vibrating with pounding metallic beats. Inside, a sense of community and celebration filled the room.

On Oct. 15, the downtown Gainesville venue hosted a bubblegum bass dance party in tribute to the late music producer SOPHIE, who passed away earlier this year. SOPHIE stood at the forefront of a group of musicians defining the subversive “hyperpop” genre cluster.

The Wooly often hosts events catering to specific audiences, such as the monthly Pop Punk & Emo Night most recently held on Friday, the Neon Liger electronic dance party held on Saturday, the upcoming Von Dutch & Velour 90’s and 2000’s dance party happening on Nov. 5 and the recently announced Taylor Swift dance party on Jan. 22.

Themed nights and special events allow attendees to connect with others who share interests and help foster local music-focused communities by giving different niches the chance to dance and enjoy together.

Alf Posen, who helped host the event, described it as a dance party to celebrate a queer and transgender artist. Music was provided by Gainesville DJ Drew Love, who has been a part of the local music and EDM scene for 20 years.

“The whole hyperpop and bubblegum bass thing is something I’ve been getting into a lot lately,” Love said. “I listen to it a lot at home. I wasn’t expecting it to be like,‘I get to play a whole night of this.’”

Hyperpop is best defined as a genre cluster with a variety of EDM influences ranging from accessible house and techno to more experimental, obscure subgenres like breakcore. A pioneer to the sound, SOPHIE paved the way for the genre to flourish and gain recognition. 

SOPHIE’s approachable music creates a sense of community through joy and celebration.

“I see a lot of the different styles that she was melding into one big thing,” Love said. “There’s a lot of influence from goth in some of her stuff, there’s a lot of influence from Detroit house in some of her stuff, there’s even breakcore and noise going on.”

The unique and innovative sounds within SOPHIE’s music take elements from various genres and, at times, imitate sounds found in daily life, like bubbles popping or metal clanking. Other hyperpop acts incorporate glitch, distortion and static sounds to their music to create an electrifying soundscape. 

“My biggest fear [at the event] is that the sound technician is going to keep trying to clear up the distortion that’s actually in the track,” Love said. “It’s supposed to sound like it’s clipping. That’s the song.”

The Wooly’s walls and floor vibrated to the beats of SOPHIE staples such as “Immaterial,” hyperpop markers such as 100 gecs’ “money machine” and even nostalgic cuts such as 3OH!3’s “DONTTRUSTME.” 

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Attendees were too busy dancing with strangers to think about anything other than the moment.

In a 2018 interview with Sophia the Robot, SOPHIE mentioned being all about visibility. On Oct. 15, the Wooly became the stage for this message. 

“[It’s about] hearing hyperpop music in a public setting and being with other people who like it,” said Helmut Carter, a UF microbiology and cell science senior and the owner of the Instagram account @ufhyperpoppers. “[It’s all about] dancing, having fun, and meeting people.”

Carter created @ufhyperpoppers in hopes of finding more people that had a shared interest in the genre. One of the first posts on the account was the poster to the event, and the caption encouraged followers to attend. 

As a product of the digital age and a deeply experimental genre born from underground raves, hyperpop thrives off the online queer communities that follow the artists.

Xander Kiker, a Santa Fe geography freshman who identifies as nonbinary, said the themes portrayed in the hyperpop genre resonate with their life experiences. 

“You’re not alone,” Kiker said. “There’s always going to be someone that will relate to you and your interests.”

During the SOPHIE celebration, the venue was full of people jumping, twirling and dancing as freely as they could. Attendees sang along to the songs — lyrics, electronic ad-libs and all — at the top of their lungs. To Kiker, this was a free space.

“We were all interested in the same thing, and there wasn’t really any sort of judgment,” they said. “We were all there to dance to the music we love and not worry about anything else.”

Seconds after the 2016 SOPHIE-produced Charli XCX song “Vroom Vroom” started playing, a swarm of people ran from the bathroom line to the dance floor. Everyone in the room was equally invested in the music, and no one was left out. 

“That’s a lot of what SOPHIE was about,” Love said. “Just be you and be your weird little self.”

Contact Kristine at kvillarroel@alligator.org. Follow her on Twitter @ktnedelvalle. 


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Kristine Villarroel

Kristine Villarroel is a second-year journalism student at the University of Florida and a staff writer with the Avenue. In her free time, you can usually find her making playlists or talking about the full moon.


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