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Sofar Experience was an intimate celebration of local music

Adam+Townsend+performs+a+song+at+a+Sofar+event+on+Jan.+18.+Sofar+concerts+are+invite-only+events+held+at+secret+locations+disclosed+only+to+those+with+tickets.+Thea+Van+Gorp%2FThe+Daily+Wildcat
Thea Van Gorp
Adam Townsend performs a song at a Sofar event on Jan. 18. Sofar concerts are invite-only events held at secret locations disclosed only to those with tickets. Thea Van Gorp/The Daily Wildcat

Looking for new music on YouTube, I stumbled across a series of music videos titled “Sofar.” I initially assumed that they were just music videos, but found after watching a few they were all practically the same in appearance. The artists and music were all different, but the setup was always the same. Every band was in a relatively small, crowded room. The musicians and audience were very close and there was a raw aesthetic to the videos. They caught my attention and I wanted to learn more.

Sofar is an acronym for “songs from a room.” It started in 2010 as a small, almost underground music scene in London, but has since grown. The premise behind it is to allow both local and global artists perform in an intimate setting and expose communities to new music, free of charge. I found that this arrangement embodied the purpose of music: to connect and share a moment with people.

I applied online to attend a Sofar event. The application had few questions for me and no information other than the date of the event. I got an email confirmation stating I had been accepted to go and would learn details the day before the event.

At first I found it almost alarming; but the more my wonder grew, the more excited I became to go. It was a big mystery I was eager to solve. The day before the event came and I got an email with an address and time. It was someone’s house — a person I didn’t know. I still had no idea who I was going to see perform.

I arrived at this house and basically just walked in. No one stopped me to ask if I had a ticket or who I was. There were many people, most conversing with one another. Eventually we all filed into what I assumed to be the living room. There were numerous lights and interesting art. We all ended up sitting shoulder to shoulder on the floor because the room was so crowded. Someone’s dog mingled between us.

Eventually, a man with a guitar walked informally up to the microphone set at the front of the room and was introduced as Adam Townsend from San Diego. He began to play while cameras floated around him for the Sofar video. I finally understood why the YouTube videos looked so honest. The cameras were constantly moving around and capturing both the big picture and little details — like the human eye does.

Townsend played a laid-back, almost bluesy, guitar style, but had a piercing voice that caught everyone’s attention. He played several covers of classic songs and a few he had written himself. Being so close and in such a small space, it was easy to hear every detail of his music which gave it a raw, vulnerable sound. The connection this created was more powerful than a typical concert.

Several other artists played after Adam and between each set everyone got up to stretch, pet the dog, go outside to smoke or use the bathroom. Being in a stranger’s home quickly became comfortable. People came and went with new faces showing up periodically; everyone was welcome.

Sofar was a wonderful and strange experience. To get a better idea, check it out on YouTube. However, being present in-person is so much more than just a free concert; it is connecting with people through music and supporting the beauty of developing art. You might not know what you’re getting yourself into, but it’s worth it.


Follow Thea Van Gorp on Twitter.


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