Review by Kweku Ackom-Mensah
It’s a rainy Tuesday at 7:30pm and my date and I are lost around the back of Crate in Hackney Wick (migratory summer hipsters’ favourite independent watering hole come canal-side pizza joint). This time though, we are drawn toward the sultry yellow glow and murmuring of a gathering inside one of the old Warehouse units, it is clear that tonight we are in for for something alltogether different. This would be my first encounter with Sofar Sounds, officianados of one off, intimate, live music events.
One mulled wine and face full of kettle chips later, we are asked to come through to the performance space (which changes with every event), this time the charming, dimly lit Queens Yard Theatre. Rafe, Sofar’s owner and resident evangelist looks and sounds like a cross between a US poetry slam veteran and the cool, hash smoking saxophonist neighbour you’ll never have (trilby included). After warmly greeting each guest like an old friend, he explains the philosophy behind Sofar, a group who are dedicated to preserving the live music experience, as the last of us (about 80 in total) take our seats. We hear about the acts for the evening and are made to feel that this is really something special (the special-ness includes a strict but polite no phones and STFU whilst music is being played policy, which everyone respects and quite rightly so).
We were treated to four incredible and unique acts with everything from the whimsical Londonised folk and sea shanties of George Frakes whose cheeky stage presence and lightning fast pik work had everyone laughing and applauding, to crowd conducting Black Forest Ghetto (or BFG) of the London Beatbox Collective. In fact, from the off, it was very clear that Sofar were not kidding when they said they take serious care and consideration selecting acts which speak to the soul. A magnetic performance from understated acoustic genius, Oscar, kicked off proceedings with songs including the inspired Daffodil Days (a philosophy born out of an iPhone autocorrection) which had everyone smiling.
The finale deserves a special mention as this is the first time I have been left speechless by a musical performance. Norma Jean Martine, a young New York vocalist and pianist, immediately had the whole crowd smiling with her captivating stage presence and delicate tones. From behind the keyboard, supporeted by acoustic guitar and box percussion, she sung a series of love stories scene by scene, laced together with beautiful and heart felt notes that had the audience transfixed. Find out where she’s playing next and buy a ticket now, you will be amazed.
I’ve got to say that outside of festival utopias with a heafty price tag, I’ve never seen live music delivered in a way that felt this….well….right. Hearing the stories behind each track, not knowing what to expect and the whole attitude and feel of the night come together perfectly and I will certainly be looking for tickets again soon.
Sofar is certainly a winner for the winter in lu of flesh flaunting park life (though from the enthusiasm of the owners and staff, I’d put money on these guys putting on a belting summer party too) so make sure you get involved! Sofar sounds is an absolute must for live music lovers. Find out more about attending (or even hosting) one of their events at sofarsounds.com