Sofar sounds hits Dublin.

There more than 400 Sofar Sounds gigs every month now.

There are more than 400 Sofar Sounds gigs every month now.

Ah the joys of head­ing out to a gig. You’re shuf­fled ever fur­ther from the stage as ine­bri­at­ed hip­sters jos­tle nois­i­ly in their fren­zied attempts to cap­ture hours of video no-one’s ever going to see again, drown­ing out the music with their drunk­en, wit­ty ban­ter. This after hours of stu­dious­ly ignor­ing any of the acts mis­for­tu­nate enough to have been sup­port­ing who­ev­er the main attrac­tion was.


The mel­liflu­ous Mol­ly Sterling.

And then five min­utes after the gig, the band you all went to see have sud­den­ly become so big that they can now only ever play to vast hordes, as venues become are­nas and are­nas sta­dia. And as the band dis­ap­pear into the dis­tant hori­zon, the gulf between them and their fans seems painful­ly emblem­at­ic of a bunch of guys who’ve plain­ly for­got­ten why it was that they first met up to play music togeth­er in the first place.

Such at least were the thoughts of Rafe Offer, Rocky Start and Dave Alexan­der. So they decid­ed to do some­thing about it, and thus was launched Sofar Sounds way back in 2009.

Basi­cal­ly, a secret gig is orga­nized where 30 or 40 peo­ple sit cross-legged around somebody’s sofa lis­ten­ing to up and com­ing bands per­form­ing their songs. No drink­ing, no shout­ing, and no mon­ey to mud­dy the sens­es. Just music and ears.


Fiona Harte.

These days, there are more than 400 gigs orga­nized a month in some 300 cities across the globe. And although you’re more like­ly to find your­self on the floor of a vin­tage clothes store than you are in someone’s liv­ing room, there are still rarely any more than about a hun­dred peo­ple at any of the gigs. And despite the fact that they sold a chunk of the com­pa­ny to Richard Bran­son, the very per­son­i­fi­ca­tion of the man, last sum­mer, there’s no evi­dence yet of any sell­ing of their soul.

Hav­ing lan­guished on the vir­tu­al wait­ing list for a few months, I final­ly got along to my first Sofar Sounds gig at the end of April. 70 or 80 of us gath­ered at the Nine Crows vin­tage store in one of the few cor­ners of Dublin’s Tem­ple Bar as yet unsul­lied by any of the soon­to­be­weds from across the way whose charm­ing shenani­gans have turned the area into a cul­tur­al wasteland.

Sofar Sounds at Nine Crows in Temple Bar.

Sofar Sounds at Nine Crows in Tem­ple Bar.

And, hav­ing col­lect­ed our bot­tle of Kop­par­berg, who kind­ly spon­sored the event, and whose cider is so mag­nif­i­cent­ly sweet, that there’s absolute­ly no pos­si­bil­i­ty of any­one ever drink­ing more than the one bot­tle of the stuff, ren­der­ing any drunk­en­ness a phys­i­cal impos­si­bil­i­ty, we sat down to listen.

As usu­al, three acts were there to ner­vous­ly strut their stuff, each per­form­ing a 20–25 minute set. First up was Chase Nova and the Ever­chang­ing Band­name, which, to quote the Simp­sons, is one of those names that’s fun­ny the first time you hear it, but gets increas­ing­ly less so the more you think about it. The songs they per­formed were actu­al­ly a lot bet­ter than that name sug­gests, and all they need now is to become a lit­tle less polite and a lit­tle more, you know, rock and roll. That nat­ur­al charm that they exude needs a pinch of salt to off­set it.


Chase Nova and the Ever­chang­ing Bandname.

Next up was Fiona Harte, a 23 year old from the North who’s a recent grad­u­ate of the Dublin branch of the BIMM music insti­tute. And she was fol­lowed by Mol­ly Ster­ling who appar­ent­ly rep­re­sent­ed us at the 2015 Euro­vi­sion which, hap­pi­ly, was one of those years that none of us paid any atten­tion to. So she should have no dif­fi­cul­ty in putting any of that behind her to con­cen­trate on actu­al music.

Both pro­duced sets of intense intro­spec­tion that brood­ed on mat­ters clear­ly per­son­al. I’m not sure exact­ly what it was that the men in their lives had done, but I found myself stu­dious­ly avoid­ing eye con­tact, as I fid­get­ed qui­et­ly away from the stage to hide behind one of the pil­lars. I’m pret­ty sure I over­heard one of the peo­ple next to me quote Camille Paglia, or maybe it was Shere Hite.


Mol­ly Ster­ling holds court in Dublin.

All three per­form­ers and their bands were gen­er­ous, seri­ous, wel­com­ing and will def­i­nite­ly pro­duce inter­est­ing work when they get back into the record­ing stu­dio to lay some­thing down on disc. And Sofar Sounds is a bril­liant idea, superbly realised, and yet to be dark­ened by the shad­ow of filthy lucre. And best of all, bare­ly a phone in sight.

As we left, we were gen­tly encour­aged to donate 5 Euro for all the work that the organ­is­ers had put in, vol­un­tar­i­ly, for our enjoy­ment. Which is almost embar­rass­ing­ly lit­tle. But it’s very much in keep­ing with the spir­it of the ven­ture. Long may it con­tin­ue thus.

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