An article I wrote for Songs From A Room on their London gig in Stoke Newington. Click on the picture to view the article on their website.
Sofar Sounds, North London – 02/10/12
On Tuesday night, hidden down an unmarked road somewhere in North London, a living room packed full of new musicians, music fans and industry experts gathered together to celebrate one thing; the wonders of live music unplugged, stripped back and completely stark naked. Well, not literally, of course, the guys behind this new music movement aren’t like that. Although they do love a band who aren’t afraid to expose themselves a little by undressing their songs in a way that leaves just their voices and perhaps a few instruments to spare. It’s called Sofar Sounds.
Back in 2009, the movement, namely Sofar or Songs From A Room, had begun after a couple of guys agreed that new musicians could do with some extra help by playing in intimate spaces to a small crowd who respected artists-in-the-making. They were fed up of going to gigs in busy bars where everyone chatted and nobody actually listened to the bands. The purpose of live music was lost and that’s where Sofar comes in.
Like superheroes for new musicians, Sofar began to swoop through the living spaces of fans from all over the world, meaning they’re now bigger than ever before. But don’t worry, they haven’t let the fame get to their heads too much. Besides, their philosophy remains the same, which was clear from the intimate surroundings of this North London living room on Tuesday evening. Rafe Offer, Chicago-born and the main man behind the movement happily welcomed and greeted everyone to Sofar. He asked the audience to remain quiet and not talk and text but show respect for the evening’s five performers. The crowd were also asked to stay until all the acts had performed. Not at all difficult seeing as the event is free and guests must subscribe to a mailing list before they can even attend.
The evening began with the likes of The Night; a six-piece band that included a harp as well as the most enchantingly beautiful voice courtesy of lead singer, Sophie Rose. She apologised after song two that they had ‘small voices’, which was complete nonsense. These guys are powerful, fresh from the studio and ready to go. They have even been recently commended by Will Rees from the Mystery Jets. He told NME that The Night are like a ‘cross between Fleetwood Mac, dark English folk and bits of Joni Mitchell.’ Not bad, not bad at all.
Up next were Beachwalk Canvas, also known as the Morgan family. They played a moving set as sister Becky melted all the hearts in the room with her delightfully delicate voice. Only recently formed, it was a pleasure to watch them and their overwhelmed expressions as the claps and cheers commenced once their final song was over.
Following the young threesome was the Ruby Kid aka Daniel Randall. His spoken word was pitch-perfect as he pronounced every word precisely and passionately. The audience were in total awe from start to finish.
A twenty-minute break then took place. The front room immediately started buzzing. Conversations between strangers were not forced and awkward but flowed naturally and effortlessly. Everyone was so friendly, so chilled and so keen to chat and discuss the acts, the venue and make friends. It was magical, really.
Once the break was over, Rafe presented the audience with a French duo called Vendège. Crossed legged on the floor, the frontman introduced the pair in broken English, signing off with ‘I hope it is enjoyable, bye.’ And it sure was. Various instruments were used, including a xylophone, loop pedal and a thunder machine, creating a very interesting yet minimalist electronic sound.
Dead Letter were next to perform, the lead singer having offered to host the evening in his front room. That’s the great thing about Sofar – if you’ve got a London living room that’s cosy yet capable of fitting a band, some instruments and a few people in then perfect, sign up on the website.
The last band to grace the small stage were Paris trio, We Were Evergreen. More xylophones and French-fuelled accents were heard, but these guys got everyone up and dancing. ‘Nobody knows my name, somebody say my name’ were the lyrics from single Baby Blue. Rest assured, guys, you should see and hear your name everywhere pretty damn soon.
As the night came to an end, everyone kissed his or her new friends goodbye. It’s okay, though, because they will be seeing each other again soon. That’s the trouble with Sofar; you’ll always keep going back for more. Period.