Thursday, February 10, 2011

Interview Feature: Luis Sandoval

It’s a dark, cold night at the intersection of Moreland Ave. and Euclid Ave., which is called “Little Five Points” by Atlantans. Although the night is gray and dismal, dozens of people are pouring through the doors of a bar, above which hangs an illuminated star indicating there is a show happening onstage.

This local hot spot is The Star Community Bar, or Star Bar for short, and Thursday nights pack the best crowd a local musician can hope for on a weekday night. Thursday nights at Star Bar have no cover charge, and with $1 beer and great music, this place is always sure to be a crowd-pleaser.

On this particular Thursday night is a bi-monthly event presented by a promotion company called ‘Team Luis.’ The event packs a large crowd, as Team Luis is always books the best bands around the Southeast. The man behind the name is Luis Sandoval, and his large 6’3’’ stature often makes him the easiest person to pick out in the mass of people standing near the bar. His smiling, bearded face and loud, boisterous laugh puts me at ease almost immediately after meeting him. His friendly demeanor negates any apprehension one might have upon meeting such a prominent figure in the rapidly growing Atlanta music scene.

Today, Sandoval has agreed to sit down and tell me about where he comes from, how came to do all he does now, and where he is taking Atlanta music in the future.

Luis Sandoval is an immigrant from El Salvador. He was born at a time of civil unrest. In order to escape the dangers of a civil war, his family moved to Wisconsin, where they remained for the next 11 years. During that time, the civil war in his native country had finally ended and his parents had grown homesick, so they moved back to El Salvador. Sandoval says the move back to El Salvador really shaped who he is today, because he was “thrown into a new culture and a new way of thinking,” which has made him adaptable to new and changing environments and situations. There, Sandoval spent his teen years in a “macho and competitive culture,” which he says is the opposite of his “laid-back” personality.

Shortly after turning 18, Sandoval's family once again moved back to the states, this time to be with his grandmother who lived in Georgia. Here, he attended Kennesaw State University from 2000 to 2005, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in public relations over the course of the next five years. In 2004, Sandoval landed an internship at Wicked West Public Relations, with a woman named Karen West. By the end of his year-long internship, Sandoval was doing all the entertainment research and writing for West’s weekly radio spots on the station 99x highlighting events and shows happening around Atlanta each weekend. Through the internship, Sandoval also met and worked with the production team of a summer concert series called “Downtown Rocks," and said of the experience, “I didn’t need to be onstage; I liked knowing how things worked from backstage behind-the-scenes.”

After graduation, West hired Sandoval to join her team at the newly founded Karen West Productions Co. In spring 2007, Sandoval was offered an opportunity to join two other guys who were starting a free monthly Thursday night show at Star Bar. It was called “Big Trouble in Little Five Points," which featured local Atlanta acts. When they would contact acts to come play a show, Sandoval said, “ we would tell the bands ‘we don’t know how much we can pay you, if anything, but we will pay for your gas money’!” This was enough to get bands to start coming out.

In 2009, Sandoval began managing acts, the first of which was a band called The Constellations, followed by Ruby Velle and the Soulphonics, Weapons of Audio, and Young Orchids.

That same year, the team behind “Big Trouble in Little Five Points” started to go their separate ways and the last show under that name took place in the spring of 2009.

The free Thursday nights had gained much popularity by that point, and Sandoval wanted to keep the momentum going. It was then he came up with the name ‘Team Luis,' and began booking and hosting the nights himself. The nights expanded to include acts from all over the Southeast and artists who are more broadly known such as Ponderosa and Dropsonic. Artists who perform on Team Luis nights can be certain they will gain exposure and increase their fan bases in Atlanta.

The Atlanta music scene is where Sandoval has invested his efforts and dreams for almost a decade now, and he continues to dream up bigger things. Right now, he is in talks with several sponsors such as Pabst Blue Ribbon and big-name acts such as Big Boi from Outcast and Cee-Lo from Gnarles Barkley to start an early summer concert event at the Starlight 6 Drive-In Theater located off Moreland Ave.

Two years ago, Sandoval’s bands were opening acts, whereas now they are headliners. Likewise, Sandoval’s promotions company continues to grow and thrive in Atlanta’s ever-changing music scene.

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