An indie band performs in a living room in Milan, a pianist performs a piece of music in a small apartment in Vesterbro in Copenhagen and a singer-songwriter plays in a gallery with a breathtaking view of Berlin. What do these performances have in common? They are all a part of the global music and art phenomenon Sofar Sounds.
Written by Lisa Bergenfelz. Translated by Rebecka McKinnon Forsell
I discovered Sofar Sounds three years ago, in Copenhagen. By then, it had existed for four years already and started in London in 2009. Sofar is an abbreviation of “songs from a room” and the concept is to create a forum where music lovers and artists can meet to discover and enjoy music.
This happens through intimate gigs in people’s homes. On Sofar’s web page, spectators, artists and apartment hosts apply to participate. The idea was born when one of the founders, Rafe Offer, was at a concert in London and was bothered by the crowd talking and doing other things instead of watching the band play. In an article in TimeOut London in 2013, Rafe Offer said:
“What are your choices? A dingy bar where you can’t hear the musicians because everyone’s chatting drunkenly, or an arena where you can’t see them? We felt there’d got to be a better way, so we started putting on gigs in music lovers’ homes.”
Said and done. Today, Sofar is established in 327 cities around the world and the number is steadily increasing. Sofar has its headquarters in London but is driven mostly by volunteers around the cities. Most of the gigs are free but donations are welcomed. The line-up and address to every gig is kept secret and approximately one week before the gig the guest list is released. I have been there in the audience a few times and it is always so much fun when you get the e-mail with the topic: Congratulations, you’ve made the guest list!
When I started studying in Lund last autumn, Stockholm was still the only Swedish city that hosted Sofar. However, a month ago, I read an article in Sydsvenskan: Sofar is now established in Lund! In February, the first gig was arranged and the next one is scheduled for April 1st.
I thought it sounded fantastic and booked a meeting with the leader of the Sofar team in Lund, Lucas Höfer, to talk about music and intimate concerts. He had recently moved to Lund from Cologne and felt that he missed a smaller place to go and listen to music.
“I had been to Sofar gigs before and I sent an application to take Sofar to Lund. At the time, they were interested to expand in the north of Europe so we applied in just the right time,” says Lucas Höfer.
In order to arrange Sofar concerts, the team in Lund went through an application process, were accepted and is now a group of four who works with arranging concerts. During the concerts, they are assisted by several volunteers.
The unique thing about Sofar is the intimate atmosphere. But how can an organization that exists in over 300 cities remain intimate? I asked Lucas Höfer how the team in Lund works in preparation for the cozy concerts.
“There are recommendations from Sofar on how to arrange a concert. In the Lund team, we make an effort to make sure the concerts are in someone’s home. We really want private people to apply and to keep it out of bigger, public venues.”
It is undeniably a special feeling when the “green room” is in someone’s bedroom and the audience can go up to the artist directly afterwards and talk or buy a record. But the concerts don’t just give the artists and the audience a unique experience. To open up your home and host a concert seems to be something extra special.
“As a host, you get the chance to experience an intimate concert with professional musicians at home in your living room together with friends and family. At the same time, you get the opportunity to meet new people, both the musicians and the audience. And you become a part of the Sofar family,” says Lucas Höfer.
Apart from the atmosphere, the quality of the music is something that impresses at Sofar concerts.
“We select artists very carefully. The artists have to be approved by Sofar in London as well,” says Lucas Höfer.
It is certainly impressive how much time and love all the volunteers put into Sofar. It is a luxury to be a part of cozy concerts, discover new artists, and meet new friends.
Tip: If you are attending a Sofar concert, bring a pillow to sit on as most of the audience sit on the floor.