Sofar is So Close to You
Sonnder describes themselves as an "experimental indie rock" band.
Sofar is a global community dedicated to expanding a network of local artists and music lovers by putting on intimate concerts in unusual places. They want the listener to connect with the music. Sofar tries to keep the concerts as small as possible, while still making a profit. They accomplish this by holding “secret concerts.” On their website one can find dates and general locations for a concert, but that is all the information available. Click on a date and apply. Within a week, you will be notified as to whether you have received tickets. There is no limit to the amount of shows to which you can apply, and payment happens after you receive tickets which cost $15 per person. The exact location of the concert remains unknown until 24 hours prior to the show. The location is disclosed via email with tips for how to dress and what to bring (i.e. jacket and blanket). It is only after you arrive that you find out which bands are playing.
I recently attended one of these concerts with some friends, and it was an awesome experience. Before showing up, we were told where to go and when to show up. We were also advised bring food, drinks, warm clothes, and something to sit on. The location was pretty much exactly what I imagined-a storage place between two buildings with scaffolding and cement everywhere. We snagged some prime seats on paint buckets and waited. People started filling the space, and it was soon packed with everyone either spread out on blankets, pushed against walls, or turning anything they could find into a seat. The main organizer got up and laid down the ground rules: 1) please no talking during the performances, 2) please don’t use phones to try and experience the music, 3) please try to make a new friend, and 4) please have a good time. He talked for a little about Sofar on a larger scale, introduced the bands, and soon after the show started.
All of the groups were great performers, and each was incredible talented. They did a great job of creating a space where the music could be heard, but was not overbearing. In between each set, there was a break where people were encouraged to talk with one another and to visit the merchandise stand in the back. In total, the concert only lasted about an hour and a half, but every moment was excellent. It was different from other concerts I had been to, where the band is far away and people are crushed together, either on their phones or too wasted to enjoy the music. The first band was called Sonnder, a self-prescribed “experimental indie rock” band. They recently released their first full length album called Entanglement. The next act was Margot Macdonald, who, through the use of her voice, created what sounded like a full band. Having been featured on NPR’s Tiny Desk Concert she was by far the most established of the bands. The last band was Mail the Horse. They are reminiscent of 70s rock bands with a hit of twang: a mix between Springsteen and Nash. A great aspect to this is that all of these bands don’t run in the same circles, but here they were able to acknowledge each other's talent. It was an atmosphere of respect which allowed peers a platform to experience other artists as fans. At the end, all of the bands stayed around and mingled with the people, bridging the gap between performer and observer. It was one of the best nights out I have had at Georgetown.
Another unique aspect of Sofar is that the bands are not usually popular. At the concert I attended, one band was from Brooklyn, one was from DC, and one was from Philadelphia. They were not on the radio, and all had only recently started recording their music on a more professional level. It was also a great reminder of DC’s rich music history. Part of being stuck inside the “Georgetown Bubble” is that people often forget the connection DC has with some of the best artists and music styles from jazz to go-go to hardcore . Going to Sofar, or any concert, is a great way to be more connected with the roots of the city we live in.
PC: Kate Henry