The Sounds, the Rooms & the Cause

Photo cred -  @a.e._photo  & Musician -  @julayhanz ⠀

Photo cred - @a.e._photo & Musician - @julayhanz

The Introduction
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.”

Photo cred - Garrett Coakley & Musician -  @kyanmusic

Photo cred - Garrett Coakley & Musician - @kyanmusic

The Logistics
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.

The Secret
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:

Photo cred -  @rootdownintheshadow  & Musician -  @dollysband

Photo cred - @rootdownintheshadow & Musician - @dollysband

The Rooms
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.

The Sounds
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.

Photo cred -  @picaresquenola  & Musician -  @tankandthebangas

Photo cred - @picaresquenola & Musician - @tankandthebangas

The Cause
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,
Tmax 

Eagles of Death Metal: Nos Amis

Photo courtesy of HBO

Photo courtesy of HBO

When I think of rock n roll music I tend to think of a collective exhale. The act of breathing out from whatever was holding you in. Rocking the eff out is a basic human right. It doesn’t even have to be related to music. Feeling stressed? Rock the eff out to your favorite tune. Long day at work? Rock the eff out and throw off those work clothes as soon as you step in the door. Little Philly break your heart? Rock the eff out and take down a quart of ice crea…

Whoa. Sorry, I had to cut myself off there because I just suffered rock whiplash and have found myself eating mint chocolate chip, in boxers, with “I Believe in a Thing Called Love” blasting out of the Pandora that plays through my Roku that plays through my TV and if Kellyanne Conway is to be believe my microwave is filming all of this.

What I mean to say is that rock and roll music has its foundations built on ultimate expression. It is loud and often times unfettered, it brings people together and builds friendships, it is a pure exaltation of love. And when that collective exhale is cut short the world takes notice.

On Friday November 13, 2015, an attempt was made to cut our breath short. What unfolded was a crazy series of events through the city of Paris that resulted in the death of 130 innocent individuals. 89 of those individuals were rocking the eff out to a rag-tag group of musicians hailing all the way from Palm Springs, California. Just like that a band vaulted into the mainstream to be forever marked by this event and become the unlikely torchbearers of rock and roll expression. Through Eagles of Death Metal: Nos Amis director Colin Hanks expertly takes the viewer into the heart of the band and the night’s events.

Photo coutesy of HBO

Photo coutesy of HBO

Before explaining my thoughts on the film I want to take a moment to remove myself from the narrative and say that my heart goes out to each and every person who lost their lives that night. Not only in the Bataclan Theatre, but around the city. I struggled on how to approach this obvious aspect of the story and decided to face it upfront. These people are not to be forgotten. The awful individuals who carried out these acts had two objectives. One was to kill and one was to threaten the idea of rock n roll and the freedoms expressed through it. They succeeded in one aspect of their mission, but this film proves that they completely failed at the other.

When I finished watching this movie I was struck with the idea of love that unexpectedly repeated itself over and over. In a small act of rock and roll I am going to forgo literary structure and detail my findings:

1: Love of Friendship

Hanks starts the story with the genesis of the friendship of Jesse Hughes and Josh Homme who would go on to form The Eagles of Death Metal. The two grew up together in the strange oasis that is Palm Springs. Through interviews a love between friends quickly reveals itself. From Homme Pulling Hughes out of the pool as a teenager to Hughes embracing his friend the night they return to Paris, it’s a friendship that is more rock n roll than anything I have ever seen.  As the story of the band unfolds it becomes clear that their quirkiness and laid back style is straight from the mind of Hughes. Overtime the band grows and shapeshifts, but at its core you always have Hughes smoking a cigarette and wearing a cape.

2: A Love for Humanity

In the defining act of the documentary we hear the retelling of the night’s awful events through the words of band members, fans, and loved ones. It is truly chilling, and as a person who constantly finds themselves in concert venues exactly like this one it was hard to watch. What rises through the terror is incredible acts of compassion and a love. Anecdotes of total strangers helping translate so the band can rush off to safety. People giving their lives to protect the ones they love. Police responding with bravery. Homme calling Hughes to let him know everything that his son is being cared for. The stories that are told in these mere minutes provide a lifetime of examples of the care and compassion many people are eagerly waiting to dole out every single day

3: Love for Music and Community

Music and community is what brought each and every member of that show together. The Eagles of Death Metal community is why it was so important for Hughes and crew to return and complete the show that they started. Hanks does a wonderful job in showing that the love of music and the sense of community it inspires is the reason everyone has been able to process and grow from the experience. Hughes understands what his band means to others, and as difficult as it was, he returns to the city to strength the community and embrace the music that allows him to do the only thing he was truly meant to do.

Photo coutesy of HBO

Photo coutesy of HBO

To those unfamiliar with their music it is important to know that it is as carefree and wild as it gets. Albums titled Zipper Down and Heart On tell you all you need to know. An event like this completely flipped the script on the meanings of this band and their songs. Little did anyone know that these carefree songs would be the ones that got a community to move on. It is a powerful example of the meaning and importance music can play in all aspects of life. When something comes along and threatens that we must all get together to do everything we can to make damned sure it doesn’t happen again. So keep making loving friendships, expressing compassion, and building your communities. Nothing is more rock and roll than that.

May all your favorite bands stay together,

Tmax

You can catch Eagles of Death Metal: Nos Amis (Our Friends) on HBO Now and HBO Go.

The Sounds of 2016

To those that know me they know that my relationship with music goes simply beyond listening. It is a hobby that has taken over my life in the best ways possible. Beyond the listening I enjoy discussing music and diving into the stories behind the artists, albums, and songs. There isn’t a situation that exists in the world that can’t be sound tracked with the proper song. Whether in solidarity or amidst a crowd of thousands, a few simple chords or thoughtful lyrics can define a mood and help us through.  

I am not entirely sure when this hobby started or how exactly it blossomed, all I know is that it has become a force in my every day. Ever since I have been allowed to go in I have been to dozens of concerts all throughout the world. Live music takes the songs and experiences to an entirely different level of enjoyment. Going to shows and discussing music with people you know and even those you don’t connects us on a level that knows no controversy or opposition. It is a beautiful bastion of art that needs to continue for all time.

In 2015 I decided to try and encapsulate my thoughts and feelings on my favorite albums of the current year by doing a little bit of writing on each. I had never really attempted something like this and certainly didn’t have much experience writing outside of engineering reports and “creative” writing in school that was nothing but as you sweated out the opinion of a TA being forced to put a letter on a paper. Since then I have fully enjoyed writing about each and every album and am ecstatic to have a vault of memories and experiences to carry with me for the rest of my life.

Last year I scratched another itch and took up the challenge of learning to code a website from scratch on my own and thus was born tkmaxwell.com. I combined these two interests to design a creative space for me to share my thoughts with the world (OK not the world, probably ten of you guys). And if you are checking the site out for the first time you will have 75 albums worth of material to dive into so get to work!

For 2016 specifically the world of music was a shape-shifting, dynamic atmosphere marked with tremendous loss, but also tremendous creativity and ambition. Never in my memory have I seen a period of music so closely reflect the world surrounding it. Music was a means to face the issues head on, escape them, or flip them on their side with journeys of celebration and diversity and I think this list of albums perfectly reflects that.

Personally 2016 was a year of great reflection and experience as I saw over 40 concerts and hopped on 22 planes navigating the world. Never could I have imagined the year playing out the way it did and I got to experience and learn things not only with those that I love, but with new friends and perfect strangers. Being that it was a year of stories and conversations I chose a different approach with the reviews this time around. Instead of focusing on details of specific songs I chose to muse on what the albums and artists mean to me or the themes/journeys I thought the artists were aiming for. With that background in mind I hope you enjoy and can’t wait to discuss:

Tkmaxwell.com

Keep on keeping on and may all our favorite bands stay together.

T Max