Over the last ten years there has been a pun intended, deafening explosion in the live music scene from all possible angles. The internet, the festival economy, and the unabashed social media culture surrounding music has forever changed the live music scene. Never has there been more opportunity to step outside your door and see wonderful artists creating wonderful sounds. Be it a 30 person bar, or a 30 thousand capacity stadium, an experience is waiting just around the corner.
Artists and organizers are constantly looking for ways to enhance the music experience through opportunity, art, creativity, and community and with that in mind the idea of Sofar Sounds was born in London in 2009. While opportunity was never more at a high for live music, founders Rafe Offer and Rocky Start began to get disheartened with certain aspects of the live music scene. Intimacy was getting lost, artists were losing the ability to get close to their fans, and inexplicable hierarchies were being formed. They had the idea to invite some musicians over to a friendly space to collaborate and play with a small audience. This idea caught fire and in the many years and thousands of concerts since, Sofar Sounds grew in a “global, grass-root network of artists, hosts, and guests, all with the goal of helping to bring the magic back to live music.”
In 2017 Sofar (shorthand for Songs from a Room) has grown from the little flat in London to being live in over 357 cities and growing. This means that wherever you may be reading this it is very likely you can jump on Sofarsounds.com right now and track down your city to see what experiences are coming soon. When you sign up for alerts on your desired city you will see a range of upcoming dates for shows in your area. If the date is free on your calendar then you can reserve your spot and if the date is not free then clear your freaking schedule and reserve your spot. If you are selected then you will be informed the week of with an opportunity to add a +1 and a few days later the time and location will be revealed. It is as simple as that.
One of the many things that make Sofar unique is that they hold tight the location of their events and don’t reveal the lineups until you arrive at the event. Aside from the fact that covert, secretive operations and surprise musical goodness is awesome there is more to the decision. Sofar believes that all artists should be treated in a respectful and equal way. Volume and interest in a music experience shouldn’t be based on reputation and hierarchies. All artists should have equal footing for spreading their art. Additionally the uniqueness of the venues calls for a bit of privacy at times. Which brings me to:
Sofar not only aims to give artists an opportunity, but gives members of the community that same opportunity to open up their space. My Sofar experiences have resided in San Diego and in that time I have seen shows pop up in people’s backyards, local recording studios, coffee shops, surf shops, and everywhere in between. The location is one of the defining facets of the organization that caters to memorable live music experiences.
Trying to categorize what music you might stumble upon at a Sofar show is an exercise in futility because categorization is not something they are interested in. You will witness new artists trying to break free, groups at stop 70 on their tour with a show later that night, or Carly Rae Jepsen singing directly to me (I suppose that last one was a fever dream and may I never break it). The shows typically consist of three acts given equal time with careful thought catered towards a diverse group. The small capacity allows each group/artists to interact with the audience and help spread their work in a way not readily available at much bigger shows.
Side note from your dynamic and handsome author: I couldn’t really find a spot to creatively drop this in but did I mention that each show is BYOB? No? Then yes, each show is BYOB.
The timing of this write up is especially relevant because, in conjunction with Amnesty International, Sofar is participating in a global concert on September 20th called “Give a Home.” So I don’t mince any words “Give a Home” is:
"Thousands of artists in hundreds of homes… for the millions forced to flee theirs. A global act of welcome. Musicians, refugees and communities are coming together in homes all over the world to recognize the things that unite us: the shared love of music... and the need for a place to call home. Sofar Sounds and Amnesty International welcome you to join us at small, intimate gigs taking place on a huge global scale in support of 20M+ refugees worldwide. Because we all deserve a home, not just the memory of one."
The National, The Naked and Famous, Gregory Porter, Hot Chip, and Jesse Ware will be amongst a thousand other musicians simultaneously playing in people’s homes around the globe for a great cause. For all the information you can visit Give A Home and put your name in for a spot in your hometown.
The Final Words
Whether you are an avid concert goer or don’t know where to begin with live music, Sofar is an organization that you can get behind for unique experiences and sounds. So stop reading this and signup, grab a drink, a friend, and a seat in whatever the secret location offers up and experience some music together.
May all your favorite bands stay together,