There is a reason that this post is very late and that’s because I was busy with other life stuff, no further explanation needed so let’s move on.
In the last month I’ve been to two SOFAR gigs. SOFAR stands for “songs from a room’. It is essentially a little, literally tiny, gig with (usually) independent artists performing at a secret location that is only revealed a few days before.
These shows aren’t a Manchester exclusive thing either they hold these events in 432 cities around the world. These events have been going on for around 6 years as well, so not even a new thing. This worldwide appreciation of stripped back and intimate performances is honestly such an interesting experience. You don’t know who is going to perform until you’re in the room with them and some well known artists have been involved too such as Billie Eilish (Los Angeles), Hozier (Manchester), X Ambassador (Austin), Ed Sheeran (Washington), Bastille(London), Wolf Alice (London), James Bay (London), Viola Beach (London), Aurora (London).
The gigs take place in a variety of venues such as clubs, bars, community centres, flats/houses and you can apply to host one of the events through their website if you think its suitable!
My gig experiences:
11th December: We were all cramped together in a room with about 60 of us, some people on couches or chairs and others lying on the floor on cushions. It was a very relaxed environment and one little icebreaker question later with the stranger next to you (What’s your most awkward Christmas moment?) and the openness and honesty of this gig was revealed. Our venue was in Partisan an “arts and social space” that hosts a variety of events to raise money for it to continue to be used by a variety of individuals. Groups like the LGBT foundation or women asylum seekers can meet in an appropriate and safe space. 4 acts performed 2 female singers, a snippet of a 1 woman show and a band to end the night.
11th January: I won free tickets to this event after a photography competition for the end of the year! After wandering around the building a few times a group of confused people looking for a gig, including myself, made ourselves upstairs in the virgin media lounges in central Manchester. We sat literally front row with only fairy lights outlining an imaginary stage. Although sitting on the floor isn’t particularly comfy it isn’t such an issue to make the experience bad (they also do recommend bringing a cushion with you which is a good shout). 3 musicians, a two piece act, a semi-folk female singer and finally a lively band from manc got us all hyped up but also were a good end to the show.
Both gigs have blown me away not just with the talent of the performers to fully take advantage of the stripped back show with powerful vocals without microphones which can capture the room but the sense of bonding you get in such a short time to strangers that I’ll never see again. There were jokes and banter between the bands and us and the general rule of not going on your phone during the acts does help you to truly listen and feel the passion they people put into their art.
This didn’t just feel like a chance to appreciate the independent and/or local artists but the opportunity to experience it in an incredibly unique situation while sometimes supporting a venue surrounded by the wonderfully varied community that is here in Manchester.
I’ll definitely have to make sure I go to more SOFAR gigs in this city and beyond.
Let me know if you’ve ever been to one of these gigs or fancy going to any with me! I’ll be more than happy to organise going with people other than my dad aha (still love you tho)