When I think of music concerts, I think of long lines, sticky floors, overpriced alcohol, and the buzzing sound that permeates my ears long after the music ends. Sofar Sounds is an organization that presents only the elemental parts of a concert without all that extra noise—at a Sofar Sounds concert, it is simply the artist and the audience.
Last Wednesday, Sofar Sounds presented an evening of music at WMA Studios (66 Green Street) in Greenpoint. The venue was kept secret until the day before, and the invited patrons who applied for tickets filed into the space from the rain outside. Attendees sat on colorful tapestries strewn across the floor, and I sat down on a throw pillow I brought from home. Sofar Sounds events are BYOB, and attendees popped bottles of wine, sipped cans of beer, and clinked copper mule mugs throughout the concert.
The cozy venues selected for Sofar Sounds concerts—which have included backyard gardens, whiskey distilleries, and boutique stores—dovetail the organization’s philosophy, which is to provide intimate concerts to small audiences. The only rule at a Sofar concert is that you cannot talk or text during a set; all the attention is given to the artist performing. There are three, twenty-minute acts of different performers or bands, which are broken up by a ten-minute break in between to relieve the silence and stretch.
“Who here is having a magical time?” said the night’s emcee after the second act.
The silent room of people, myself included, erupted in noise: “Me!”
And while the exclusivity of it all heightens the excitement, placing the artists and the audience in the same room makes it an all inclusive affair. There is no backstage, so artists mingled with their new fans in the crowd during the breaks and after the show, selling merchandise and answering questions.
Sofar Sounds is the ultimate way to discover new artists. The secret lineup last Wednesday included the hip hop artist Elbows, the indie soul artist Tavonna Miller, and singer-songwriter Prateek Kuhad. Bands are booked with the help of Sofar’s ambassador team, who review artists and decide whether they would be a good fit for a Sofar show. An internal booker then selects artists for each event, choosing three different genres for the lineup.
This close to home experience happens in far-flung places all over the globe. Before the concert began, the emcee asked the audience where else they had seen Sofar Sounds concerts. Attendees shouted out Australia, Austria, Italy, and England—where the organization was started in 2009. Other Greenpoint venues that have hosted Sofar Sounds concerts include Greenpoint Gallery (390 McGuinness Boulevard) and Brooklyn Home of Music (107 Green Street).
Upcoming concerts this month taking place in North Brooklyn will be presented in Greenpoint on September 23rd, Williamsburg on October 6th, and East Williamsburg October 10th. (Last night’s Williamsburg show was sold out). The location and the line-up are still undisclosed, but they’re all sure to be magical.