“There’s nothing quite like it.”
Anyone who’s been stuck at the back of a concert mosh pit will relate—sometimes crowds just suck. You can’t see the artist properly. Someone’s spilt something sticky on you. You can smell the bathroom stench even with a blocked nose. And the person next to you is convinced that the louder they sing, the better they sound (they’re incorrect).
Don’t get me wrong, concerts are amazing. But, sometimes, instead of adding to the experience, crowds end up putting a dampener on what should be a moment to remember forever. That’s where Sofar Sounds comes in.
Sofar Sounds is a company that organises small-scale concerts in random locations for local musicians. Cool, right? But here’s the kicker: Ticketholders don’t know where the show is until 36 hours before, and they don’t know who they’re seeing until the artist gets on stage.
Sofar Sounds Australia and New Zealand’s regional director Matt Walters explained it best: “It's about showcasing new talent and creating unforgettable moments for music lovers. It's about providing a unique platform for artists to perform in unconventional, intimate settings.”
And when he says unconventional, he means unconventional. We’re talking rock climbing centres, co-working spaces, yoga studios and community halls—and that’s just some of the venues from this year.
“Most venues can be converted to create a space where music matters,” Walters said.
Plug into the latest music with our FREE weekly newsletter
Brisbane indie-folk trio Thursday Maybe have performed at two of Sofar’s events lately, one at Burrow Nursery in Windsor and one at Grandad Jack’s Distillery in Miami. Annabelle Barnes, one-third of the trio, couldn’t speak more highly of the distillery gig: “It was the coolest place to play live music because the natural reverb in there was insane,” she said.
“And, just with the energy in that room, you could tell how passionate everyone was about music.”
All of Sofar’s shows are performed to pretty small crowds—you probably won’t find one with more than 70 people. That’s intentional.
“Our intimate settings allow artists to make genuine connections with audiences, which is crucial in building a loyal fanbase, especially in the early stages of a musician's career,” Walters said. “We aim to take the essence of live music—the connection between the artist and the audience—and bring it to the forefront.”
Ella Jones, another member of Thursday Maybe, noted this connection when she performed. “I loved how attentive the audience was,” she said. “I’ve always been background music, so singing with the girls and actually having people listen is such a different experience—like they were actually paying attention.”
Bandmate Jemima Laag agreed. “It was semi-terrifying, but everyone was super attentive and supportive. It was a really nice environment to play in.”
Barnes chimed in too. “It’s such a thing with Sofar Sounds. The two gigs we played with them are the most silent gigs we’ve played. It’s what makes those gigs so special.”
In a time where crowds are getting rowdier, things are getting thrown at artists mid-set (what is up with that trend?), and everyone’s flocking to live events post-COVID, Sofar shows are a breath of fresh air. It’s just a bunch of like-minded people coming together to appreciate the storytelling aspect of music, whether they know the artist or not.
“We're living in a digital age where people discover music through playlists and streaming platforms, and artists have the opportunity to reach millions of listeners worldwide. But it also means there's high competition,” Walters said. “A Sofar Sounds show provides artists with a platform where they can share their talent directly with an engaged audience. It's this level of interaction and emotional connection that you can't achieve through digital platforms alone.”
It's also the aspect of discovery that adds a little bit of excitement to Sofar shows. Since establishing in 2009 in London, Sofar Sounds has run many a concert for small artists that have gone on to become huge. Think Billie Eilish, Noah Cyrus, Leon Bridges, and even Jack Harlow. This pretty amazing track record of booking artists before they blow up is just another reason Sofar Sounds has been filling venues for 14 years.
Walters explained: “Part of the excitement of Sofar Sounds is the potential to discover the next big thing, but, more than that, Sofar shows have introduced me to so many talented artists that I wouldn't have discovered otherwise,” he said. “Sofar Sounds is about discovery. It's not just about seeing artists you already know; it's about uncovering new talent, experiencing different genres, and connecting with music in a raw, unfiltered setting. We invite attendees to step out of their comfort zones and potentially find their next favourite artist.”
If the secret location alone is enough ‘discovery’ for you, fret not. Sofar Sounds has a national tour coming up, and this time, the lineup isn’t a surprise. Boasting a stellar cast of five-time WAM Award nominee and Vanda & Young International Song Competition finalist Paige Valentine, Australian folk singer, songwriter, producer and multi-instrumentalist Hayden Calnin, and Australia-born and Stockholm-based multi-instrumentalist Hazlett, the tour celebrates Sofar’s expansion into Australia. They’re hitting all the East Coast cities this August, bringing a triple threat display—basically, they’re what Hazlett called “a folk One Direction.”
No stranger to Sofar’s shows, Hazlett has performed at multiple gigs run by the company, but this tour will be his first time performing live in Australia since 2019.
“I feel like the secret shows thing is almost like a nice stepping stone back into it,” he said. “Just getting the lay of the land of who’s out there and who’s interested in my music.”
The timing of the tour is perfect, as he plans to release an EP later this year. And, despite the thrill of a surprise lineup not being there, Hazlett is certain people will still feel a sense of discovery: “Between the three of us, people listen to our music in different places. It’s going to be a nice surprise for people to come for one artist but get introduced to two other artists as well.”
So, if crowds are getting on your nerves, inflation is getting on your bank account, and the same old music is getting on your playlists, maybe it’s time to check out Sofar Sounds.
As Walters said, “Talking about it is one thing - you really have to attend a show to truly understand. There’s nothing quite like it.”
4 AUGUST – SUNSHINE COAST
5 AUGUST – BRISBANE
6 AUGUST – GOLD COAST
8 AUGUST – NEWCASTLE
10 AUGUST - SYDNEY
11 AUGUST - WOLLONGONG
13 AUGUST -MELBOURNE
For tickets visit - HERE