I was standing in the dark outside Seven Sisters tube station, trying (and failing) to look inconspicuous. It was drizzling. I was distinctly uncomfortable.
It wasn’t the most auspicious start to an evening, but, believe it or not, I had good reason to be loitering on a street corner in this part of London.
Earlier that afternoon, a friend had asked me to accompany her to a mysterious musical event. She had been invited to meet the organiser to discuss her final knitwear collection (artistes must stick together) and, never one to turn down a spontaneous invitation, I agreed to be her plus one.
So, back to the drizzle. Ten minutes later, my friend pulled up to rescue me from the suspicious stares and together we made our way to our destination – a converted warehouse in an industrial estate.
The event in question was organised by Sofar Sounds, a group of music enthusiasts who organise ‘secret gigs in intimate spaces all around the world’. According to their founder, the idea is to create an atmosphere where people stop whispering, fiddling with their phones and clinking their drinks and actually listen.
They’re not kidding about the ‘around the world’ part either. Sofar gigs take place in a huge range of cities, from London and New York to Bangkok, Auckland and Guadalajara. If (by some miracle), they don’t host gigs in your city, Sofar encourage you to volunteer to run one yourself.
The gigs are held everywhere from living rooms to bars. The warehouse (and that night’s venue) was home to 25 people and a bohemian dream. A gigantic, spherical chandelier hung from the ceiling, next to a Chinese lantern. Shiny bunting was draped along the banisters. Three mannequins were strung above our heads. A skull and crossbones flag and an anti-corporations sign adorned the walls. Vinyl was stacked inside a doctor’s bag. The smell of marijuana and beer permeated the air.
Sofar take the ’secret’ part seriously, so the audience don’t know who or what to expect until the singers take to the stage. Whilst the element of surprise may put some people off, the organisers clearly have a knack for identifying the next big thing. Previous artists to have performed at a Sofar gig include George Ezra, Hozier and George the Poet. On that particular night, we heard an electronic duo from London, The Migrant Flood, a singer-songwriter from Copenhagen and Norma Jean Martine, a female vocalist from NYC. Each act was completely different to the next, their 20 minute sets broken up by short breaks. By scheduling more than one act per night, Sofar minimises the chance of bored and unhappy audience members.
Not that boredom would have been likely anyway – the warehouse was packed with people. The atmosphere was mellow and friendly and the enthusiasm was infectious. When people are this ready to be entertained, it’s hard to go wrong.
There is no set attendance charge; instead, guests contribute whatever they feel is fair. What with that and the BYOB policy, it’s one of the cheapest and most enjoyable night’s out around – wherever you live.
To find out about Sofar gigs near you, sign up for email alerts on their website.