On February 28, there’s going to be an amazing concert in Newport Beach. People will be gathered together in an intimate space to take in a beautifully multi-faceted musical experience. The artists will be in their prime, and you absolutely shouldn’t miss it.
Here’s the thing, though. We can’t give you the address. Or even a nearby address. Or tell you who’s performing. What we can tell you, though, is that you can apply to attend the show here, and the ticket will only cost $20 … that is … if you’re invited to attend in turn.
Interested? We thought you’d be. These secret shows are the signature offering of Sofar Sounds, and it’s worked well enough for them that Newport Beach is only one of 447 cities they host performances in.
Where’d they come from, though? That’s an interesting story, actually! The Sofar story started in 2009, across the pond in the bustling town of London. Not wanting to bother with the loud and crowded party scene, a man named Rafe Offer invited his friends over for a quiet, intimate gig in his apartment. He and seven other people enjoyed tunes from a friend of Rafe named Dave Alexander. No chanting, no drinks getting thrown around, just a peaceful musical experience.
Although they didn’t know it then, this was the beginning of Sofar Sounds. As time went on, Rafe and company would organize more and more of these shows in their area, eventually forming the Sofar organization and taking things to an international level. Today, it’s a global community of artists, hosts and showgoers sharing in the common bond of intimate experiences and very pleasant surprises.
To learn more about the organization and their upcoming show, I sat down with Gabby, who runs the Orange County branch of the organization.
Like many others working with Sofar, she started off as a volunteer, coming in three years ago and wanting nothing more than to bring people closer to their next favorite artists. In fact, it was only recently that the organization decided to open paid career positions. Since then, Gabby has handled Sofar shows all across the West Coast, although she mainly handles the Orange County events.
When asking her about the biggest highlight of working with Sofar, she almost immediately replied that it was the chance to give space and exposure to emerging artists. This led me to my next question: Where are they finding these artists?
Simple enough, Gabby let me know they’ve actually partnered with a venue in Santa Ana that does open mic nights. They’ll watch those performances, or have someone watching on their behalf, and select the best artists to play one of the upcoming shows in the area. Don’t worry if you can’t make it to those open mics; they also accept applications online via their website!
Naturally, this selection process means there’s a hefty amount of genre diversity from their selected acts. This doesn’t mean the shows are a hodgepodge of random sounds, however. In fact, Gabby told me one of her main priorities is making sure there’s a consistent theme between every single artist, even if their genres are worlds apart.
That led me to my next question: Where are they finding places to perform? Thankfully, there are a lot of places in the area that are willing to host local music. WorkWell in Irvine has been happy to work with them, for instance, and many other small businesses have been kind enough to open their doors. They still do house shows, too, just in a more official way. Specifically, they work with an organization simply known as The Agency, which connects them with open houses that are in escrow. Given the calm nature of the performances, along with the lack of people already living in said house, this system works out perfectly.
Now was about the time I was wondering what type of musicians they’ve had play in the past. One of the first groups Gabby mentioned is called Undecided Future. They’re a funk group from Long Beach that specializes in five-part harmonies, and they’ve been doing their part to keep the good vibes going. You can check out their music here.
An O.C. band she tells me about, The Jacks, has been doing their part to bring rock tunes back to the forefront, with a style reminiscent of The White Stripes. Songs like “Walk Away“ have been getting a very warm reception online, too, so don’t be shocked if you hear them on the radio soon.
She also let me know about an amazing artist out of Berlin who goes by Lizzy and the Palm. She delivers silky smooth acoustic tunes that pair perfectly with her soulful vocals, the type that hit perfectly in a little dive bar packed to the gills. She won’t be playing bars forever, though, so make sure you check out her music before she blows up.
I then wondered if there was ever a band that did better during the show than she expected. Without any sort of pause, she says the name Darby. As I ask why, she explains that, before them, they’d never done a show without vocals. Interestingly enough, they have a sax player in place of a vocalist. They discovered them at an open mic, and notes that their jazz-punk style was not something people regularly heard in the area. This, however, was exactly why she wanted to give them a shot. This was the right idea; they were received with extreme positivity at the Sofar, and it gave them the boost they needed to start regularly performing in L.A. Check out their work here!
Sofar only do one or two shows a month in each area right now, but the near future will see them throwing up to four or five a month instead. The only way they can sustain that, of course, is if people buy tickets. So come on! Who doesn’t like a pleasant surprise once in a while? Treat yourself to the gift of music and get yourself tickets to their Newport Beach show today!