Cordova resident Sarah Phillips, creative mind and founder of Smack Box Entertainment, is bringing a handful of dynamic bands to Cordova on the last day of the famous IceWorm Festival. The music is scheduled to kick off on Feb. 4 at 9 p.m. live at The Alaskan.

The Cordova Times chatted with her about the upcoming festival.

The Cordova Times: How did you come up with the name? 

Phillips: In short, Smack Box is the nickname my friends and I dubbed the wooden, box-shaped percussion instrument that I jam with called a cajon. It’s in reference to not always knowing how to do something but doing it anyways and enjoying the journey as you figure it out along the way.

The Cordova Times: When did the business launch? 

Phillips: On paper, the business launched in early Fall of 2022 when my husband and I decided this was much more than a hobby. 

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The Cordova Times: Why music for you? 

Phillips: Why music for me? Why music for anyone? It’s the soundtrack to our lives, no matter what genre we’re listening to or what we are going through. Music, especially live performances, builds community and makes us feel connected and alive.

The Cordova Times: Did you always feel like you had a calling to this field? 

Phillips: I’ve been organizing and hosting a variety of events most of my adult life. Clothing swaps, bachelorette bashes, baby showers, birthday parties abroad, tours, house shows, art performances, stand-up, etc. I’m always saving my pennies to attend different shows and festivals around the state and elsewhere. I was always left with a feeling of longing to bring those experiences home. So, starting with monthly open mics and building towards ticketed shows, we began to make it happen.

The Cordova Times: What are your dreams for Smack Box Entertainment?

Phillips: There are so many ideas and goals I have for Smack Box, as it is a platform to launch performances and events other than music shows, though I’m really content with the pace that this endeavor has taken so far. There has been such a welcomed reception from Cordovans and a long list of eager and enthusiastic artists who are applying to book, but I’m taking it one show at a time. But we do have bands booked for June and October, with others waiting to be put on the calendar.

I am a mother to three boys who are growing up fast, three goats who need my daily attention, and I have at least one hand always tending to my thrift business — so the energy I’m able to apply to Smack Box shows averages every few months. I’ve also assumed a new role under the guidance of Alyssa Kleissler as music coordinator for Salmon Jam with the Cordova Arts and Pageants and want to devote my time to support the board and host the bands we are bringing in for Shorebird Festival, Salmon Jam and more.

The Cordova Times: And how do you plan on tying that into Cordova in the future?

Phillips: One of my dreams for Smack Box is to be able to host some all-ages shows and find sponsorship or organizing a fundraiser and an appropriate venue to bring in performers for the teens and under-21s to be able to attend. I’ll never forget attending an Aviators show when I was 15, hosted at The Masonic. I think Cordova kids deserve another avenue to channel that universal teenage angst and find a healthy sense of belonging that comes with being on the music scene.

Continuing to host open mic night at The Alaskan is always something I look forward to. We have been hosting open mic for over a year now and each month there is a new act or new music and a crowd of smiling faces. We have such a selection of talent in Cordova and it’s been an honor showcasing it each month. 

The Cordova Times: Are you excited to bring some outside the area bands to the IceWorm Festival? 

Phillips: Absolutely. At the risk of sounding cheesy, this truly is a dream come true. When we brought Sundog from Anchorage and Casey Smith Project from Fairbanks for Fungus Festival, I was in such a blissful state — life couldn’t have been better. Sundog is one of my top favorite Alaskan bands and they were playing in my hometown, at my favorite watering hole. It was a trip. Now, here we go again, I’m ready for round two.

The Cordova Times: How did you go about choosing the bands?

Phillips: The lineup started with Jay Straw of The Jephries moving back to Alaska and hearing about the opportunities opening for bands to come to Cordova. I got a text from an unknown number but could hear his excitement as I read the message: “I heard through the bean-vine that you’re booking in Cordova!” After confirming The Jephries commitment, it was suggested to bring Wash Your Hands as their opener. I have been in attendance to Sara Jean’s impressive open mics that she overlords at Van’s in Anchorage and got groovy with the trio’s sound at Trapper Creek Bluegrass Festival last summer.

Brother Buffalo and I had been in communication for booking later in the year but when they found out their travel plans allowed them to make it for Iceworm I was stoked. When I found out Foot E. The Clown was back doing an Alaskan tour, I thought how perfect they would be for Cordova. The first time I heard Foot, they had been making the rounds at TCBG and briefly took reprieve at our campsite, sat on a stump, picked up an instrument, sang the most soulful song and as quickly as they had come, they left into the summer twilight. It was pure magic.

For more information, follow Smack Box Entertainment on Instagram: @smackboxevents or visit the website: www.smackbox.biz/. The Cordova Iceworm Festival begins on Jan. 28.

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Amanda Williams is a freelance reporter for The Cordova Times. She is also Aquatics Resource Management Assistant for Copper River Watershed Project. Williams is a Navy veteran who served during Operation Iraqi Freedom. She has worked for a variety of newspapers in the Lower 48. She first came to Cordova as a VetsWork intern working for the Forest Service as a public outreach specialist on the Cordova Ranger District.