ON THE ROOF OF A BEVERLY HILLS MANSION. In a yoga studio. Inside the lobby of a San Francisco boutique hotel. Overlooking a Malibu beach as the sun sets.
With Sofar Sounds, a global organization redefining concert-going, I’ve had the opportunity to enjoy live music in unorthodox locations like these (and many more). As fun as concerts are, everyone knows the frustration of standing right behind the tallest guy in the building or that one person that just has to film the entire set on their phone. In 2009, two friends from London, feeling that the magic of hearing live music had been lost, started inviting people over to their flat to listen to musicians. Pretty soon, Sofar Sounds (which stands for “SOngs From A Room”) was born.
The process goes as follows: after going to sofarsounds.com and selecting your city, you choose a date and general neighborhood (i.e. The Mission or Union Square for San Francisco) and apply for tickets. If accepted, you pay the small ticket price (typically $20) and Sofar sends you the exact address the day before the event. Perhaps the most unique part of the whole experience is that you have no idea who’s performing until you show up to the venue—you could walk in to see Ed Sheeran or Hozier, or you could walk away with a new favorite band.
In these intimate settings, experiencing live music feels incredibly personal—the performer isn’t elevated on a stage, the music is stripped down and acoustic, everyone sits on the floor, and the audience respects the artist; this intimacy is what drew me to keep coming to shows.
Currently, you can attend a Sofar show in 406 different cities around the world, from Nairobi to Nashville, Tijuana to Tokyo, and everywhere in between. Sofar’s global presence almost guarantees that no matter where you are on the planet you can always catch a show, making the world feel a little bit smaller. I’ve tried to explain this sense of community to a few of my friends on our way to an SF show last quarter, but I had no idea how absolutely minuscule the world would soon seem.
As we strolled into the venue (the Couchsurfing headquarters in Potrero Hill) and looked over the lineup of performers for the evening, I couldn’t stop staring at one of the names. “Brett Hunter.” Why did that seem so familiar? Then it dawned on me—I turned to my friends with wide eyes and said, “oh my god, I’m pretty sure that’s my cousin.” I hadn’t seen Brett, my cousin by marriage, since he sang at his grandfather’s (my step-grandfather’s) funeral years ago. After his set, I approached him and explained the connection, and he was equally as blown away; he also just happened to be wearing a hat that belonged to our grandfather that night. If I didn’t believe in the magic of Sofar before, this reconnection with an obscure relative certainly proved it to me.
With shows in San Francisco almost every night, Sofar Sounds offers the perfect escape from campus and an opportunity to immerse yourself in live music in a totally new way. Just be warned—after attending your first show, you might become addicted.
By: Hannah Scott
Photography by: Hannah Scott