By Teyquil Skelton
Photo by Mike Arrison
This past Tuesday on November 26th, I had the opportunity to explore the intimacy of Sofar Sounds at a secret location in the Fishtown area of Philadelphia. The atmosphere was quiet, calm, and comforting. People in the audience brought little cushion blankets to lay on but there were also things provided that folks could sit on as well during the event. The show itself travels all around the world and at each event, there is a total of three acts performing four songs each. Most are original songs, although some perform cover songs.
It began ten years ago in Shoreditch, London when Rafe Offer and 2 of his mates, Rocky Start and Dave Alexander found it extremely difficult to enjoy concerts in public. They mentioned that people talked a lot during the show, telephone calls were being conducted and conversations in the crowd were being had. This made it hard for them (and others) to possibly enjoy the performance as a whole. Not to mention, it was quite disrespectful to the acts performing who were working their craft right in front of you. The three gentlemen hosted their first house concert with a few friends and it quickly turned into something special.
Sofar stands for (Sounds From A Room) which is exactly what you get from these intimate settings. Some friends come together, people who come alone, and couples who come to share in the intimacy of the music and social interaction. Sofar has caught on to a wider audience which gave way for the opportunity to expand the experience the gentlemen created. As the buzz grew, Sofar Sound continued putting on these secret close-knit shows in Paris, New York City, Los Angeles, etc. since 2011. Offer, Start, and Alexander have changed the landscape of how people view live music.
In 2017, Sofar announced that they will be putting on 500 gigs per month in over 300 cities worldwide. It’s a funny thing to start something cool and have no idea the effect it would have on others to where the expansion of it crosses over to other countries who are on board with what you’re doing and how it is being represented. The outcome can be overwhelming at times and since 2017, Sofar has millions of capital from Battery, Union Square, and Octopus Ventures. With that kind of achievement, I’d say Sofar Sounds has grown in a positive way in 2019.
Tuesday night’s theme, One Warm Show, was nothing short of amazing as the night started with a two-piece band, Camp Candle. They gave a stellar performance with elements from the ’80s and a magnetic appreciation for electronic grooves which to me, were introduced in a series of their song selections.
The 2nd act that performed was &More, The band consisted of two front people. One male rapper, Chill Moody and the other was a female vocalist, whom I later found out was Donn T, with such a powerful vocal ability. They also had a drummer, a guitarist, and a keyboardist that possessed funky soul grooves with messages from both parties leading the band that left you speechless as they presented them through the language of music and expression.
The last act of the night, was the astounding vocalist, Zeek Burse who opened up his set with a cover of “Use Somebody” by Kings of Leon. From the first note he sang, the audience was glued, their undivided attention was given freely and openly. He also presented his original songs that were stellar along with a follow-up cover of Bob Marley’s “This is love.” What a way to end this amazing evening.
The night was magic and what made the experience electrifying had a lot to do with the participation. Participation from both the audience and the artists involved. They entertained the crowd with every ounce of energy they had to give such a unique and memorable show. Ten years is a long time for anything to keep running. It’s even more beautiful when success catches up to the thing you’re doing as you witness the fruits of your labor unfold in ways unimaginable. If you ever get the opportunity to share in the experience of Sofar, I hope yours will be as amazing as mine was and that within your moments of seeing it up close and personal, you’ll realize why sounds from a room is so profound and why the journey of discovering live music in this manner is a much-needed interaction socially in communities around the world.