• Cagla Bulut

SOFAR, was so far sooo good, and highly likely you’re not so far away from it.

Updated: Jun 9, 2019

Cool bands, poetry slammers, live concerts, soul and funk meet own brought wine, avocado salads and a cozy audience taking off their shoes.

Sofar audience © Cagla Bulut

Sofar audience © Cagla Bulut

This is basically how a sofar, 'sound from a room', looks like. I was at my first event on Tuesday in Hackney and I have to admit I was a little bit unprepared. I left my booze at home, I didn't know we were allowed to bring any, the result of a lack of research. And I left the event hungry, seeing other members of the audience dining during the live acts.

But I sustained my craving for some artsy input. I listened to great music from the sounds of American artists to new singles of a new-comer UK-band and I watched a thought-provoking poetry-slam performance.

Apart from all the great live acts that I saw that night, I think what makes sofar different from other events, is the audience. It's often a small group of around 50 people, depending on the location (it can be up to 200), interacting with the artists throughout the whole show.

The organizers explained that they started sofar to ‘create an immersive experience that brings guests and artists closer together’. They said that the reason behind this special type of show was the fact that the audience in different live-shows doesn’t pay the well-deserved respect to the performing artists.

Sofar audience © Cagla Bulut

But during Tuesday’s event, the audience still had to be silenced. After every song volunteers and event-holders tried to hush the audience and even one of the performing musicians started his gig with “So, let’s do it... and people shut up.”

When I asked the poet and theatre-maker Adam Kammerling if he thinks that sofar’s audience is different he said, ”There's a balance to be struck. And I think sofar goes some way to strike that balance. I've been to shows, where people were, I would say, even too polite. And that's lovely as it is to have everyone's attention, but as an audience member that could be like vibe-lacking.”

He continued, “Sofar is slightly on the other way, where people are listening, but they are also very active between each other. I think the audience is very warm, very active and they’re quite loud, which I like and sofar is always well run and lovely.”

Adam's performance was about aggression, masculinity, and heroes, and added a socio-critical element to the event.

There’s no separation of the audience and the artists with a stage or what so ever. They’re all on the same level, chatting during the whole show. The artists ask questions and the crowd responses, mostly in a funny way, and everyone bursts into loud laughter.

One of the best parts is I think to have the chance to listen to songs that haven’t been released yet and to get to know newcomer bands and artists. It’s like a private art show, in which only selected people are allowed to take part.

One of those newcomer bands is ZEBEDE and their soon-to-be-released song ‘It’s raining honey from the sky’. Before the band performed it, they asked the crowd “anyone here, who dated Charlie (the band’s guitarist)?”

No reaction.

The band explained that at one of their last gigs when they told the audience how they came up with the idea of writing the song, they ended up apologizing a 100 times to one of Charlie’s ex-girlfriends who was part of the crowd. Because the song was about Charlie’s former lovers, "who look like honey from far away, but once you come closer you can’t tell whether they have angel or dragon wings."

ZEBEDE © Cagla Bulut

It was the band's first time at a sofar event and lead singer Leah Cleaver said, "It was amazing. We feel like with many shows at some point, a lot of points, everyone is not listening. And it just felt like these people show to be here. You know we’re all young, we’re all living in London, 16 pounds is a lot of money, and everyone paid to come. And you can really tell, that this is their big part of the week, and they appreciate it."

Even the way to purchase a ticket and to know where the event will take place is quite unusual. Sofar offers events in different boroughs of London (and worldwide) but doesn't offer the exact place of the location. One has to make a request for an event first. Once you get selected, you can pay for your ticket and bring a +1. And one day before the event you’ll get an e-mail with the detailed location, and then nothing will stand in the way for a great night. Except you forget the drinks, like me.

Sofar audience © Cagla Bulut

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