Have you ever been to Sofar?
Although Sofar is often described as a program whose members can sign up to to be invited to a private concert, in fact – it’s much, much more. What it is is a new mean to connect people – both musicians and their fans – as well as to introduce the former to their potential fanbase in a series of closed, household, secret events that (so it happens) are among the most interesting the music world has to offer. And how could it be any different? What can be better than being invited to someone’s place for a concert – for a household, secret concert! – without even knowing who is it that is going to be there? Without even knowing who’s concert it’s going to be? To find out that it’s actually [put the name of your favorite artist here] – for an audience of ten, fifteen people? Or – to be surprised by a band you’ve never even heard about (but you should have heard a lot)? What can be better?
You can bring your partner. Yes. (Of course.)
Sofar Sounds was founded in 2010. Its founders were Dave Alexander, Rafe Offer, and Rocky Start. At first, Sofar events were exclusive to London and the UK (in fact, the first shows took place in March 2009, before the Sofar Sounds was even founded, as a part of its founders friendly initiative). As of this moment, the concerts are organized in almost 300 cities worldwide, up to 500 concerts/month, all of them secret, the lineup of each – fully disclosed until the show’s actual beginning.
The philosophy behind Sofar is that the artist who decides to give a concert deserves full attention and respect. Thus, Sofar attendees are asked to turn off their phones and remain silent during the performance. There’s also no turning late (or leaving before the end): if someone is late, he/she won’t be allowed to enter. The same goes for the people who’d like to leave earlier – if you leave mid-gig, you can’t possibly come back to it: you simply won’t be allowed to re-enter. This is the answer to what often happens during traditional concerts, where the crowd is often unrespectful, loud (sometimes louder than the music), and inattentive. Sofar puts the emphasis on the fact that a concert is not simply a show, it’s a way to establish a connection between the artist and the listeners. Although it may sound harsh, in practice it works just the way it should, making the attendees feel like they’re part of something bigger and much more important than but another music event.
Furthermore, the Sofar events are mostly free (during the show the hat is passed to raise the money for the artists). Each gig’s crew consists mostly of volunteers. The Hosts (people who allow the events to be organized in their houses) are also volunteers.
After each show, there is a possibility to socialize with the other participants, as well as with the artists. Usually, there’s also an afterparty. In one word: a lot of fun!
How to get there?
Getting to the Sofar event is – most of all – a matter of luck and persistence. All one has to do is to sign up on Sofar’s page – and apply for one (or more) of the upcoming events. Then – either you get in or not. It’s all a matter of chance.
While sometimes it’s not that hard, at times, when the concert is intentionally smaller, it can be harder. It is not impossible, though, as people get invited there all the time.
Once you’re in, you receive an email. What it presents you with is your particular show’s date. There’s no info on who’s going to be there nor whose concert it is. There’s just that: a date and an hour. You can either attend it or not, but it’s better not to miss the opportunity. The shows are atmospheric and amazing – and full of amazing people.
As I’ve mentioned earlier, you can bring one person with you. It’s not uncommon, however, for people to come alone.
You can also decline Your invitation (there’s no negative consequence to doing so). If you know in advance that you won’t be able to come, you can let the Hosts know – so that your place will be then given to someone else in your place.
One can also apply to become a Sofar Host. If you believe that your place will fit as a concert stage, you can fill a Host subscription form and wait for the Sofar’s crew to decide whether it applies or not. If it does, good for you: not only you’ll have amazing people will visit a concert organized there, not only you, but you’ll also be granted permission to enter each and every Sofar event – worldwide!
Because the concerts are to be secret, people invited are asked to keep the location and date to themselves. Though it may be hard to believe, it’s a rarity for Sofar events to be spoiled by someone leaking the info. There’s a certain appeal to the secret part of it – it would seem.
Though Sofar has gained its reputation mostly for inviting well-known and already established artists, such as, for example, Bastille or Hozier, there’s always a possibility for the invited to stumble upon someone relatively unknown, but worth one’s time nonetheless. George Ezra, James Bay, Wolf Alice, X Ambassadors, Leon Bridges… the list of Sofar artists goes on and on, and it would be pointless to list them here. The fact is that – once invited – it’s never a wasted effort to participate. Who knows who will play there for you, after all?
What’s most important is that it’s not impossible to get one’s band play at Sofar. All one has to do (that is: apart from having a band or performing solo) is filling a simple form on their website.
All in All
All in all, Sofar is what the music world needed, and needed much. The fact that the concerts are secrets – and the lineup is never revealed before the performance begins – is a great twist that adds a lot to the experience, but the best part is the atmosphere at the show: it’s much more personal, much warmer, much… better. If you’re into music and striving for something new and worthwhile – it may be just what you were looking for!
Image Credits: By Kayla Johnson from Seattle, United States CC BY 2.0