Sofar Sounds reimagines concert atmosphere

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A small crowd of IPA-drinking, Stan Smith-wearing, tattooed millennials sprawled out on blankets on the rooftop patio of a secluded mansion to hear bands play in an intimate, two-hour performance Sept. 26 in Beverly Hills.

Sound too cool for you? Think again.

Introducing Sofar (Songs From A Room) Sounds, an organization that describes itself as an “innovative concept dedicated to bringing the best new music to intimate, unusual spaces,” according to their website. Sofar originated in London in 2009 and cultivates small, donation-based house shows in 182 cities worldwide, including Buenos Aires, Rome, Dublin and Los Angeles.

Many well-known acts have performed at Sofar shows, including Leon Bridges, Karen O and Hozier, according to the organization’s YouTube channel.

The concerts have a lottery-based ticketing process. If selected to attend, concertgoers receive an email announcing the location the day before the event. The lineup is not disclosed until arrival at the concert, allowing attendees to explore new artists and genres that they would not usually choose to see.

Put on in private homes, the shows are like a “Wine/Coffee/Cheese of the Month Club” for music, according to the Sofar Sounds FAQ page. They want everyone to come ready to experience carefully-selected new sounds, be they local bands or touring acts.

“It’s cool to be in such an intimate setting with performers, even if they’re not people you necessarily care about,” Josie Pesce (sophomore), who attended the Beverly Hills event, said.

Sofar requires artists to perform “stripped down” versions of their songs and asks that audience members give their full attention to the performance — putting away phones and pausing conversations — and stay from start to finish, which adds to the deliberate, curated feel of the shows.

While these conditions create an intimate venue for performers to share their music, the closeness has its drawbacks.

“There [is] a pressure to be very attentive,” Pesce said. “It [feels] like you [can’t] get up and walk away, because they’re just a foot in front of you, watching you watching them.”

The Beverly Hills show drew a crowd of around 40 people. Performers included Street Joy, The Parlour Suite and Big Harp. While the small turnouts may make some attendees uncomfortable, the artists love it.

“My favorite thing is how attentive and supportive the crowd is,” Stefanie Drootin-Senseney, bass player for the band Big Harp, said. “At club [or] bar shows people are a bit more chatty. You can tell that the people who go to Sofar shows are super music fans.”

There are four October shows in various areas of LA, all of which can be applied to on Sofar’s website.

The concerts are pay-what-you-want, BYOB and a great way to get out and explore different parts of the city, in Pesce’s opinion. All it takes is clicking “attend” to get a little bit closer to the music.