By Kieran Ford
A Secret Gem Gaining Momentum Worldwide
A friend first enlightened me about Sofar Sounds around a year ago. I was on a ‘hometown holiday’ in London when she invited me to join her at an ‘exclusive’, invite only gig in an unknown location. Oh! Mysterious. I accepted, of course, and off we went.
Sofar‘s aim is to bring people together from all over the world into uniquely intimate settings, to showcase new, up and coming musicians that they’ve discovered.
Simply search for your city on the Sofar site, any upcoming dates of nearby shows will appear, and you can apply for a ticket to it. You can also opt to bring a plus one. If you’re luckily enough to be accepted, and it’s not easy, then you’ll receive an email to confirm your place at the show.
Next step, you’re emailed the time and top secret location the day before and then you’re all set! You turn up, find your name on the guest list and head in to enjoy, it’s free of charge. Donations are welcome, though not enforced and are often collected in a non-intrusive and jovial way. For example, this time, a big fluffy pink pig moneybox was passed around the crowd for people to drop loose change into.
The locations are memorable. They can be anything from people’s houses, to art galleries, to breweries, to rooftops. The atmospheres are special too. The crowd sit and observe the performances quietly and respectfully. This makes for an interesting change, as you soon find yourself paying a lot more attention to the wide range of different surprise artists that appear at each event.
“You feel like you’re sitting back in primary school again, and you’re about to witness a really exciting assembly!”
My First One in Portugal Sofar
Having enjoyed the event in London, I was happy to hear that they’d expanded to Portugal. I applied to shows in Lisbon and Porto with no joy but was eventually offered a ticket in Coimbra!
Coimbra is one of the main cities in Central Portugal and is renowned for students, thanks to its University being one of the oldest in the world. Before we go any further people, please, take note that it’s pronounced ‘Queem-bra’. It saves a lot of embarrassment…
What Type of Venue did they Choose this Time?
Who offered to host this Coimbra Sofar showcase then? ‘Casa da Escrita‘ is your answer. Once the home of famous Portuguese poet João Cochofel, it has since been converted into an institution for aspiring writers.
An overgrown, picturesque, patio garden and multiple innovatively shaped rooms, lined with bookcases and artefacts such as vintage typewriters and famous literary works. It made for the perfect creative setting for a Sofar Sounds gig.
As at the majority of these shows, we were soon invited to gather in the main room and sit cross-legged on the floor before the musical setup. You feel like you’re sitting back in primary school again, and you’re about to witness a really exciting assembly! Who knows? Perhaps this nostalgia-provoking setup is intentional. If so, it works!
The Secret Artists
1) We Find You
A satisfyingly simple two-piece act. A single guitar is played very carefully, with regard to the cleanness he achieves, though he performs it so effortlessly. Mellow, appreciating the beauty of his friend’s voice and of their songs as a whole.
The singer sings methodically, concentrating on every note he intends to hit. Though it’s not in an arrogant way, it’s subtle hand movements, it’s sincere, and the result is a soft, calming and thought-provoking voice.
With such a basic set up, they’ve worked layers into their songs. The guitarist offers up delicate backing vocals and uses a stomp box for a bass drum effect, which I thought was cool. The singer also taps along with a tambourine or egg-shaker at times.
They’re genuineness shines through. A fine example of ‘simple but effective’. This emphasised by the fact that the moment from their set that’s stayed with me was during a song called ‘Rush’. They got the crowd involved – sing this catchy chorus along with us, keep the beat. ‘Can you feel the rush?’ Over and over, the whole room became ‘the act’, singing as one, and the rush flowed throughout.
2) André ViaMonte
Clearly a professional singer from the off. The preparation, the effortless fluttering between a range of pitches, the difficult notes expertly sustained and the moving back and forth from the microphone to creative effect.
Sections of the performance reminded me of watching a musical, and others were reminiscent of the songs you hear accompanying those tear-jerking wordless animations that you see. You know, often portraying a feeling of inspiration or longing or gratitude. Yes, well a journey flowing through these varying emotions is what I felt their set captured.
The voice is the focal point of the band but don’t forget the three exceptional musicians backing him up. I was mesmerised by the timing between them, the pianist, cellist and the violinist, it was impeccable and made me appreciate how difficult these often forgotten about instruments are to perform with.
Maybe it’s because I rarely witness this orchestral style of music. That’s what I love the most about Sofar, it’s always a mixed bag, you never know what treats you’re in for, and in both of my experiences so far it’s been enlightening.
(♫) So Let Us Go and Leave This Place (♫)
Sofar Sounds is all about getting promising new acts like this noticed, so check them out via the links on my Instagram post here.
Another thing to mention is that despite both acts being no doubt Portuguese (they lost me during speedy native speeches between songs), they both sing in perfect English. This is something the Portuguese seem to have become accustomed to, but the sudden language and accent change between talking and singing still amazes me. Also, I’ll admit that in my head it was a small ‘victory’ for me – the one being a bit lost during the talking parts but the tables were turned once the songs kicked in.
Being Portuguese, there’s a chance that either of these acts could appear at next year’s ‘Bons Sons’ festival. Make sure to check my previous post on the interesting experience I had there recently by clicking here.
So, with that I conclude my fifth post on this new blog venture of mine. Turns out it’s almost entirely about music so far. I will be doing more location and food orientated posts as well, just at the moment I’m wandering through another very musically orientated patch. On that note, no pun intended, I’m in the process of trying to record a few more of my live music videos. It’s just a case of getting the sound in order. I would love to have the opportunity to play at a Sofar show myself one day.
For now, I highly recommend Sofar Sounds to any of you that are fans of live music, and I thank all of you for the support I’ve received so far!
Get in touch / Diz qualquer coisa,