Have you ever been to a concert that was too big? One where you can barely see the artist over the sea of smartphones recording on Snapchat, and can barely move in the crowd of people? I know I have, and these experiences are far from the fun I hope to have at live music events. While many concerts I’ve been to are great, sometimes you need a smaller and more intimate live music experience. In 2019 I was introduced to Sofar Sounds by another student I was studying abroad in London with. I’m not sure how he learned of the organization, but the way he described the shows intrigued me. We bought tickets for a small group of us to go see a performance by three unknown artists, at an unknown location, in a city we barely knew. It’s been three and a half years now, and I finally returned to Sofar’s site for my second show.
Sofar Sounds is a self-described “global community for artists and audiences,” hosting small gigs in hundreds of cities around the world to “create space where music matters.” This is relatively vague but encompasses the energy of Sofar completely. A few times each week, Sofar hosts events in different parts of a city—these places could be commercial locations like hotels, bars, museums or galleries or private locations like people’s living rooms or backyards. The location of each concert is kept secret until 36 hours before the performance, with each ticket holder only knowing the general neighborhood of the venue and if they should bring their own drinks for the show.
Attendees also are unaware of the three unique local artists, who will each be performing 20-minute sets during the show. But each performance isn’t like the last; Sofar attempts to create a blend of styles and instrumentation at each of their shows. There is something for everyone at these concerts, whether you enjoy bluegrass, experimental, pop, folk, R&B or rock. If you go with an open mind, you’re sure to enjoy the performances.
In London, the show I attended was in a near-empty room of a nondescript building. Patterned cushions and blankets littered the floor for the 20-30 attendees to sit on during the performances. In Boston, the show I attended was at a hotel—The Moxy—with Sofar guests able to purchase alcohol at the hotel’s bar. The room was strange, with floor-to-ceiling windows on one side of a long almost corridor-like space. Neon signs in various shapes and colors illuminated the room from their places on the ceiling, and guests sat along the walls in chairs or on the floor.
Both of my Sofar experiences were unique, as Sofar experiences are meant to be. They introduced me to a variety of local artists in each city that had specific performance styles and personalities. The intimacy of the venues and the limited number of attendees allowed me to appreciate the artist as a person beyond their performances, creating what Sofar touts as a connection between artist and audience. As someone with a background in music, as I’ve played orchestral and jazz music up until my second year at Brandeis, I appreciate being able to really see the artists play their instruments. The minimal production available at such small venues takes the performance to another level, really requiring deep talents in each performer that every viewer can—and will—appreciate.
Boston is a city full of rich musical talent, mostly based on the fact that Berklee is there! The artists who perform for Sofar in Boston are often connected to the music school in some way, and those who aren’t are equally as talented.
Tickets for Sofar shows in Boston range anywhere from $20 to $30, a small price to pay for what is the perfect date idea! Bring friends, family or new partners! Sofar shows are a great experience for anyone.