These days, getting a ticket to a SoFar Sounds is almost akin to an invitation to a secret society. But the prospect of live music, with an intimate, music-loving, attentive crowd, and without the background din is what the underground organization has strived for since its inception in 2010. All around the world, SoFar brings together music lovers and aspiring, independent artists in an intimate and secret venue for an evening dedicated to good music.
The venue—which ranges from someone’s living room to coffee shops, to even churches—is kept a secret until the day before the event. Checking out the concept, we recently entered a nondescript apartment building in Bushwick, Brooklyn with the exciting anticipation of not knowing too much about what we would encounter since the lineup for the events, which are typically multi-genre and diverse, is not disclosed either.
In the basement of the loft apartment, a small crowd gathered—some mingle by a small minibar, some talk to the artists who are going to be performing, while others sit on the rug in front of the stage, reserving their spot for the show. Between the rugs on the floor, the incandescent lights overhead, and the plastic cups in hands, it’s almost like walking into a friend’s loft party—save the stage equipment at the front of the room.
The owner, Alex, hosts a wide array of shows and performances in his basement under the name Secret Loft. From SoFar gigs, to other concerts and even comedy shows, Alex has converted his basement into a venue for shows and performances. As someone interested in hosting gathering of these kind, Alex said he specifically sought out a loft apartment with suitable space and acoustics—or lack of—such that he could host small gigs without having to worry about noise issues.
Alex’s goal to create a small-space gathering for listening to live music reflects the objectives of SoFar founders, Rafe Offer, singer and song-writer from Belfast David Alexander, and former London DJ Rocky Start. Founded in London, in 2010, SoFar was conceived as an alternative to the noisy music venues that the founders used to frequent and as a platform that would coalesce artists and audiences in a space that is respectful to the performers. The founders started by hosting a gig in Alexander’s living room in North London, with Alexander playing at the first SoFar concert in his home for an audience of eight.
“We thought it would be a little hobby here. We had no idea it would ever spread!” Offer said in an interview with Consequence of Sound.
Others seemed to like the idea, and the idea spread across London and soon other cities around the world. While SoFar eschews from having headline artists, past performers have included The National, Scarlett Johansson, and Robert Patterson.
The set list for the night in questino features Brazilian artist Aline Muniz, a classical instrument group with Jonathan Miron, and local hip hop artist Crimdella. The crowd erupts into applauds after each artists finishes, yet it’s astonishing how quiet the animated crowd becomes when the sets begin. Aside from a few photo snaps, hardly anyone is on their phones.
According to their website, SoFar is currently active in 328 cities worldwide with over 500 opportunities each month for artists to play. And while the idea for a house concert is not particularly novel, its the principles upon which SoFar operates that makes it such a unique experience. There is no VIP pass or front row seat ticket. In a SoFar concert, texting and speaking is banned during sets. In between sets though, everyone mingles and chats with each other, and the artists too.
With small crowds and unique, diverse artists, it’s not wonder that since coming to New York City in 2011, SoFar has been a big hit, with 60 shows planned in numerous neighborhoods around the city in the upcoming month of April alone.