For those of you who have never heard of Sofar Sounds, the rules are simple: pick a city, pick a date, and show up with a positive attitude. That’s it.
Colloquially known as Sofar, this organization responsible for “secret” concerts around the globe uses a lack of details as an enticingly vague marketing tactic. Virtually every concert they host withholds the artists’ identities until you show up onsite. On top the performers’ cloak-and-dagger entry, the venue of each show isn’t disclosed until 24 hours before the actual start time. As if that wasn’t enough, the ever-changing Sofar venues are rarely associated with music. These donated venues are typically a unique and open space such as a school, house, park, yard, museum, church, brewery, or any other locally-owned area willing to sacrifice their privacy for the sake of local art.
This past Friday marked my first Sofar Sounds show out of Boston, Massachusetts, and boy was I satisfied. A spacious backyard within a Medford suburb gave about 70 audience members a grassy expanse to view the artists perform on a dimly lit patio. Every blanket strewn seat was up close and personal, and each one of the three artists performing had their own unique offering to add to the experience.
The first act of the night was Luke Concannon, a Boston-based acoustic guitarist originally hailing from Coventry, England. Concannon was a crowd-worker, immediately disregarding the advice from Sofar staff to “not sing along in such a small, intimate venue” by instead telling the crowd to “forget what they just said, when you learn the chorus, please sing with me.” His agenda was smudged by politically idealistic preachiness, but his utopian viewpoints were kindly gilded with romanticism. Concannon sang alongside his fiancée and their mutual friend in a sweet melodiousness that echoed optimistic passion in every note. His set was about love, and though cliche, it was hard to disagree with his enthusiasm.
Next up was Dudley Music, a producer, rapper, and multi-instrumentalist from Long Island, New York. Dudley’s approach of laying out electronically procured beats, rapping a poetic lyrical essence after each beat, then taking an aside with either the saxophone or flute aligned a dazzling program that left the audience outwardly spellbound. Daunting tales of a difficult upbringing paired with provocative covers of songs like Montell Jordan’s “This Is How We Do It” garnered assorted whispers from the crowd, each person paraphrasing the same quote that “he’s really good”. All in all, Dudley music was undoubtedly the night’s crowd-favorite.
The evening’s final act was SnugHouse, a foursome of from Portland, Maine constantly shifting between supporting each other as individual singer-songwriters and then melding together into a harmonic quartet. Although they were a bit honest and self-deprecating in admitting that their recent gigs were not overly successful, this group was the most collectively appreciative of Sofar’s opportunity to provide a group of open-minded, local music lovers to listen to their songs. Each member of the group sang a track that they wrote on their own, highlighting their originality and ability to support each other as a team. The only diversion from this tactic was a mellow jam-band cover of Bee Gees “Stayin’ Alive” which brought the a sea of smiles to the spacious backyard. This crew showed the most long-term promise in my eyes, emulating bands like Darlingside and The Ballroom Thieves in their unification and role substitution approach.
Below is a sample of some of the studio work these artists have created, though their pre-recorded tracks truthfully do not do the Sofar experience justice. Never stop supporting local music!