Sofar Sounds Secret Shows: Five Bands Share Their Experiences

By keeping the bands a secret until the very last minute and organizing shows in apartments and other curious intimate venues, the SoFar Sounds prototype just keeps on spreading! It’s become so popular, they now put on shows all across the globe. We asked five bands to share their experiences with Sofar below.

Sofar Sounds is the result of a situation we’ve all had to deal with at some point. One evening in 2009, three music fans—Rafe Offer, Rocky Start and David Alexander—went out to a London club to see the band Friendly Fires play. But the chatter in the bar was so loud, the three friends could hardly enjoy the music. In response, they decided to organize a concert in a small London apartment with local artists. There was only one rule: pay attention to the music. They didn’t announce the lineup in advance, and the location wasn’t revealed until the very last minute. Thus, Sofar Sounds was born. Seven years and 4,000 concerts later, Sofar has held events in nearly 300 cities with 12,000 artists. Despite its rapid growth, Sofar has managed to preserve the intimate feel of its humble beginnings. Here are the stories of five bands who were won over by the concept.

Julian Fulton in New York:

Sofar was exactly as cool as I’d hoped it would be. Very intimate. Insanely responsive and respectful crowds, eclectic lineups, passionate staff. And no matter the space, the place always fills up with people looking to discover new music.

I’ve played two shows for them at this point, both in New York City. First show was at a Backdrop, an art gallery, venue, and all around creative space in Brooklyn. Definitely a cool spot for a plethora of different things. Second show was an awesome rooftop spot above an office space rental building in the Lower East Side called The Yard. Great view of the city. Both times, the crews at Sofar laid down tapestries on the ground, so it’s mostly a sitting audience. Again, very intimate.

The audience. They were just so receptive and respectful, which isn’t necessarily something you can expect from a room full of strangers. A lot of that is Sofar, though. They cultivate an environment where everything comes second to the music.Nobody makes a sound when you’re performing. Nobody’s texting or staring at their phones the whole time, or having full blown conversations one foot from the stage. Again, Sofar works hard to preserve that sort of environment with these shows, and I think the result is something pretty special. It’s the type of show you always remember, and I think that goes for the audience as well.

Daniel Glover in London:

I stumbled across the Sofar YouTube channel and was a fan from therein. Je me suis senti attiré par la communauté présente à chaque événement.I was attracted to the community at every event. These attentive audiences and the incredible artists enticed me to the point where I wanted to be there, and I’m lucky enough to be playing their shows!

I’ve played three sets in office studios and twice in homes. The acoustics are always pretty cool, and whoever works/inhabits there tend to be just as cool. The shows were all different but what they have in common is great music and truly wonderful people attending.  

The atmosphere, the whole room’s waiting on every artist and this excited, patient audience is comfortably nerve-wracking for me. It’s a real roller coaster thrill, at the end you can’t help but feel good. If you’re playing pubs you’ll always have people who go there to drink, Sofar doesn’t have that, it holds an exclusivity for the music people. The people who rock up just want music and to make new friends.

Plastic Section in Bangkok:

The event we played was a Sofar anniversary party in Bangkok, and it was a great party! It was a bit different to the usual Sofar events in that it wasn’t just intimate acoustic performances, so we were able to play a rock ‘n’ roll set with our full band. We played at a big house down a narrow side road on the outskirts of Bangkok. The night we played there was a huge storm (not uncommon in Thailand!), so getting to the house felt like being in a horror movie, but once we were there the place was amazing. We played in a very large open living room with a great sound.

The audience was great – really into the music and in a party mood. It was also fun to play in a different kind of environment at a very well-organized event.We played to many people who had never been to one of our regular gigs, which was great. Being in Bangkok, it was also a nice mix of locals and foreigners from every part of the world. It was a big, friendly and enthusiastic crowd who were open to different kinds of live music.

Tom Stephens in Sydney:

Playing in peoples houses is a great way to experience music for both the artist and the audience.  The artist feels comfortable because there’s no big stage or lights disconnecting them from their audience, and the people feel comfortable because they’re sitting on cushions drinking tea and not having to stand for 2 hours like every other show!

The concert was a real joy.  We played to about 40 people, all super nice, super chilled.  No broken strings, managed to play through all my songs without any major disasters. Great times all around.We played in a mattress showroom in Surry Hills, right near the Sydney CBD. When I heard the news that we were going to be playing in a mattress shop I expected mattresses to be everywhere and people catching up on sleep during the sets, but there was just one at the front of the shop that everyone was fighting over. Was a tight squeeze fitting everyone in the room but ended up being super comfortable (despite no mattresses).

Urban Village in Johannesburg:

We were approached by Sofar to come perform. We were quite delighted by the invitation. It is good to be thoroughly listened to without the background noise. I think it’s every artist’s dream. What we enjoyed the most was the intimacy of the session and the welcoming hosts. The audience engaged, the people were attentive, they were on a musical journey with us.

The experience was really amazing. Being in an environment where people listen attentively and engage with the music is a magical and humbling experience. You play play music in true essence of what is really is. We played in a beautiful home which allowed us to bring our art to the people in that neighborhood.

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