In today’s Instagram era, when it seems everyone’s main goal is to give their friends FOMO, it’s not hard to see why Sofar Sounds shows have blown up in popularity.
The international organization that hosts low-key performances at somewhat-secret venues showcasing regional musicians and bands started in London in 2009 after Rafe Offer invited friends over to his apartment to listen to his friend Dave Alexander perform. The audience’s attention was completely tuned in to the performance, no one was talking or checking their phones. That simple experience became the basis of the entire Sofar mission.
Since then, the program has gone worldwide. It made its way to Charlotte.
I was smart enough to request tickets to the most recent show, Feb. 20, a few weeks ago. With my attendance confirmed and tickets paid for, I waited in anticipation to find out who would be playing and where the gig would take place.
On the day before the show, I received an email informing me that the performance would be at Camp North End, a venue I’m familiar with. It was slightly disappointing, as I had heard of Sofar shows taking place in basements and quirky little shops around town. No matter, though, as the real treat was seeing new bands to discover.
After convincing my boyfriend that it was going to be a low-key, laid-back affair, I was able to drag him along to Camp North End, blankets and six-packs in hand. After parking, we followed the signs to the show and grabbed seats on the floor in the front, spreading a blanket and cracking open our drinks.
The host of the night explained the rules, or “tips,” as he called them. No phones. No talking. Make friends.
Then came the first band. Ironically, it was Time Sawyer, a band that Queen City Nerve‘s own Pat Moran actually talked with this week in the lead-up to their Friday night show at Neighborhood Theatre.
If you haven’t listened to or read up on Time Sawyer, the alt-folk rock band is from Yadkin Valley, and those boys know how to write and perform a song. I was entertained watching the upright bassist go to town on his wooden instrument that was as tall as him.
Time Sawyer played five amazing songs, which was a phenomenal way to begin the night.
The second act, Hedonistas from Atlanta, Georgia, fucking killed it. They played a style of music that I didn’t know I even liked; a funky swing sound that had everybody grooving. After they finished up, I approached lead singer and keyboardist Jake Keeble and told him how great the show was.
That’s one of the cool things about Sofar, the musicians stick around so you can introduce yourself and make a connection to the band members, not just the music.
Between sets, we made friends with those around us. A lovely person was kind enough to snap a few pics of me and my boyfriend and we got to know her. We ran into some people that my boyfriend knew in high school and caught up with them.
Closing out the show was Dane Page, who’s opening for Time Sawyer at their Neighborhood Theatre show. Discounted tickets to that gig was a secret surprise for everyone in the crowd.
Page’s rock ballads and acoustic melodies soothed over the audience and everyone relaxed. He played a song he wrote for his grandmother and another one dedicate to his fiancée. I rested my head on my boyfriend’s shoulder and let the music wash over me.
Then it was done. I could’ve sat in that room all night listening to new music and enjoying the atmosphere around us. The Sofar crew took a picture with everyone in the crowd, and we gathered our things and left. On the way back to the car, we discussed how much we enjoyed Hedonista’s high-energy and funky music.
In the end, I definitely plan to go see another Sofar Sounds show in Charlotte when I get the chane. Hell, if I’m in another city for any reason and there’s one happening, you can bet that I’ll request tickets for the next “secret” gig.