Last week in a showroom filled with expensive furniture in SoHo, a small group of people sprawled out on beds, couches, and plush rugs, and formed a tight-knit half circle around a young band from Chicago called The Walters. The all-male group sat in a row of chairs and performed an acoustic set of winsome, romantic indie-rock. Lead singer Luke Olson wore suspenders over a black t-shirt (hopefully serving as a reminder to young men everywhere that Cameron from Ferris Beuller’s Day Off had a great thing going) and, unable to contain himself, at times burst out of his chair to better wail relatable sentiments about love: “If I’m not sleeping with you / then I get no sleep at aaaall.” Just five feet away, leaning against attractive armoires and sturdy bookshelves, the crowd was transfixed.
It was a production from Sofar Sounds, a startup that schedules really good bands to play live shows in unusual and unusually little venues (a bakery, a private residence) that aren’t revealed until the show’s date. But the “secret” behind these secret shows isn’t just what the venue will be, it’s the performers, too, and it’s worth the wait; at a Sofar event last year, Karen O performed a quiet version of her material in a private loft filled with cross-legged floor-sitters. We know what you’re thinking: An ongoing offering of secret shows that had always seemed more like rumor than reality? How can I get in on this? Well, you’re in luck: This week and next, Sofar is hosting secret shows in four neighborhoods across Brooklyn.
First, in case you’re worried that you won’t get to see someone as good as Karen O or The Walters, Christine Cook, Director of Sofar New York (183 cities participate worldwide) promises their team of mostly volunteer music-lovers books only great bands so, despite the secrecy, your gamble should pay off. One tantalizing tidbit about Williamsburg next week: The headliner is one of their “favorite pop lady groups” of the moment. Yes, we do know who it is and, no, we will not tell you, but we confirm that you should sign up and try to get on the list.
Cook assures us that the non-disclosure arrangement works out for everyone in the end. “Only people coming get the address, so we don’t get a bunch of random people showing up outside someone’s house,” for starters, says Cook. And if, by chance, a big gig should cancel last minute, Sofar will secure some band that is still good and wants to play for you–but you’ll be none the wiser, so no big deal.
Think about it, what was the last time you went to see live music anywhere in which you did not have beer sloshed on your shoe or hear the majority of the lyrics come from the mouth of the gentleman next to you? There are rules at Sofar, and being quiet, staying for the whole show, and not spilling your BYO drink are three of them. This victory is real. (The last rule is the opposite of “Don’t talk about Sofar.” It is, “Spread the word on social media about our shows as much as possible.”)
Sofar says they believe they offer the best live music experience available to anyone. In a world filled with sloppy bar shows and colossal stadium performances–and in which enjoying music in a quiet room on luxurious furniture is an alternative–they could be right.
Sign up for upcoming Sofar shows in Brooklyn here.