Sofar: Songs From A Room

All too often, live music events are almost ruined by concert-goers who aren’t really there to enjoy the music; they may be there because their friends invited them, or maybe because they just wanted a drink at the bar where a band happens to be playing. Whatever the reason, this kind of disinterest can really negatively affect the whole experience for the band and fellow audience members. It can be so incredibly frustrating to look forward to a night of great music, whether you have or have not heard of the artist before, only to experience the whole audience talking so loud you can’t hear it. This is where Sofar Sounds comes in.

          My first Sofar experience took place at a Dutch bike shop in Brooklyn, which very much confused my friends upon arrival. Sofar operates in a very community dependent way; each show is hosted by someone in the area, in a diverse array of spaces like boutiques, churches, living rooms, and, of course, bike shops. The audience typically sits on the floor, which creates a very casual, cohesive vibe by bringing everyone to the same level. The shows are normally BYOB, and this eliminates the need to get up and go to the bar, which is another hugely disruptive factor we all see at concerts. It was extremely relaxing and pleasant to be able to just sit on the floor with my friends, a bottle of wine (or two or three), and enjoy really beautiful music.

          At each show there are three acts, and sometimes their only common thread is that they are extremely talented. There could be three acts from three completely different musical backgrounds, which is really cool because it has the potential to expose the audience to music they would never otherwise listen to. At the show I went to, my friend and life goal Kat Cunning performed first, but Sofar strongly encourages each person to stay for all three acts. This was not a hardship by any means; the two acts that went on next, Queue and Tall Heights, were fantastic and awe-inspiring (especially after those few bottles of wine).

          This brings me to yet another problem with the traditional concert format. Having acts play as “headliners” and “openers” creates immediate prioritizing for the audience. I am definitely guilty of trying to arrive just as the headliner goes on, skipping the opening bands that I had never heard of. Never again! This attitude can be toxic to the music community because we, as audience members, have the huge responsibility of word of mouth (and nowadays, increased social media exposure). We should see all the new bands we can, and recommend the ones we love to all of our friends, so that the music we love reaches more people and those artists can continue to create. We should take a video or two of those artists and post them everywhere we can so that our friends can share our enthusiasm and support good music. At Sofar Sounds shows, the audience is not allowed to talk, or text, or google, or tweet, but we are allowed and encouraged to take (non-disruptive) pictures and videos so that the artists playing can receive the kind of attention they deserve.

          Founded by two guys in London, Rafe and Rocky, who got discouraged by the distracting noise and trips to the bar, Sofar Sounds is really all about focusing on amazing new music in a very friendly, stress free environment. You can apply for a pay-what-you-want ticket that even includes a +1, or you can pay $15-$20 for tickets that guarantee entry. Sofar now exists in over 260 cities all over the world, and hosts over 50 shows every month. For fellow New Yorkers, there are shows in just about every neighborhood there is during any given week, and shows are typically all ages (just don’t bring any screaming children)! I highly encourage everyone to visit to attend, host, or perform at a show.

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