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Sofar Sounds: The Intimate, Pop-Up, Concert Experience

Music junkies rejoice. Orange County has opened its doors to a secret musical portal by welcoming Sofar Sounds. Sofar Sounds is the ultimate place for fans looking to have a more intimate experience with not only local artists in their community, but some of the biggest up-and-coming names in the music industry.

Started in 2009, Sofar Sounds’ goal was to transform everyday spaces such as living rooms, coffee shops and even rooftops into secret performance spaces where artist and fans could get together for a night any music lover would enjoy. One can enjoy Sofar Sounds in over 300 countries around the world. The events usually highlight up-and-coming artists who are either local to the community or have an underground sound. Social media is a big part of the experience, and fans can learn where to follow and listen to the artist they hear that night.

Photo by Ethan Talby

On Saturday, November 3rd Sofar Sounds OC held a joyous rock ’n’ roll night in the heart of Orange. The secret location of the night was the big and beautiful backyard of our volunteer host, Dave. This backyard looked like a small neighborhood park, filled with twinkly lights, lawn chairs and blankets for the crowd. Guests were even treated to homemade warm cookies courtesy of Rye Bakery in Newport Beach. Even though it was a sold-out show of 100 guests, it still had a very intimate feeling. With a BYOB (bring your own booze) policy, you feel as if you are at your family’s or best friend’s house. The guests ranged in age, but all had their love for music in common, making it a friendly and welcoming experience, sharing their drinks and asking if this was their first Sofar experience. Surprisingly, for the majority of the audience, it was.

The show opened with Shannon, our MC for the night. With her bubbly personality, Shannon delivered some guidelines for the night: “Please limit your cellphone usage as artists perform, try not to talk, and enjoy tonight with your whole heart.” That last statement stuck with me as the theme for the entire evening. Open your heart to these performers and new music and open your heart to this new intimate experience.

The opening act of the night was Garrison Starr. A native of Tennessee, this soulful singer took the audience through a personal journey – with every song came a story. Whether it was about her dropping her life and moving to L.A. with friends, coming out, or remembering loved ones who have passed, Starr was vulnerable with the audience, letting them in on this personal and intimate musical story. Starr’s set included an appearance from her best friend Margo; however, the biggest surprise is that Dave went up to join them. Dave hopped up on base and joined Margo and Starr for a melody that brought the house down. Starr closed her set with a gospel song dedicated to her late grandfather. It was beautiful and heart wrenching with vocals that touched everyone. She said thank you and goodbye to the crowd with a quick encore of Happy Birthday to Dave. You can check out Garrison Starr on Spotify or follow her on Instagram @garrisonstarr.

The second act of the evening was a rock ‘n’ roll band named The Mammoths from Austin, Texas. Even though this was their first trip to California, these Texas boys looked like they were straight from Venice. They had the perfect laid-back rocker vibe with the long hair and incense burning off of their soundboards. They opened up their set with “Lose Control” followed by “Running.” Halfway through a guitar solo during “Running” they were jamming so hard they pulled their cords out of the power. It added to the intimate feeling of being in someone’s house, and the guys had a great sense of humor about it. When they got the sound back, they immediately picked up right where they left off without skipping a beat. The lead guitarist, Michael Jekot, was straight out a 90s rock ‘n’ roll band. He ripped through his solo during “Running” and the chemistry between him and lead singer David Kapsner was electric. They closed their set with “Cold Sweats,” a song that drew inspiration from what happens after a night of having too much to drink. The band’s chemistry as a whole was spot-on during this song. You could tell that this was a group of guys who genuinely loved to play music together. I can’t wait to follow these guys and see what they do next! You can find their EPs on Spotify and be on the lookout for their first full-length album coming soon. Check out The Mammoths on Instagram @the_mammoths.

Photo by Arielle Roude

The closing act of the night was Ninet. Ninet is a firecracker rock ‘n’ roll diva hailing all the way from Israel. Ninet opens her set and immediately forms a bond with the crowd. She asks if anyone has some whiskey they can share. Audience members were quick to pass up their whiskey to her. Before she starts singing, Ninet wanted to give a message to the audience regarding the recent tragedies across the country. Ninet passionately tells the audience, “light will defeat darkness,” and with that, she starts to sing her first song “Self-Destructed.” Her voice is powerful and draws passionate calls from the audience throughout all her songs. She rocks like no other with a Middle Eastern sound that fills most of her songs. As her set begins to end the crowd begs for an encore. Luckily, she obliges and covers an all-time hit, “Crazy” by Gnarls Barkley. She took this early 2000s pop hit and put a new spin on it: It was rock ‘n’ roll, it was women’s empowerment, it was Ninet. You can follow Ninet like all the other performers from the evening on social media, including Instagram @n.tayeb.

After being to many concerts, some that were in large stadiums and others on smaller stages, experiencing live music through Sofar Sounds has been one of my favorite ways to date. I left this concert with goosebumps because I felt as if I got to know all of these artists. Their music brought together 100 people for two hours, but it was two hours I will never forget. It was intimate and homey and showed that one could appreciate all forms of music. I highly recommend checking out Sofar Sounds OC and attending their upcoming events. It will be one of the most magical musical experience you will ever have. Although Sofar Sounds OC is sold-out for the rest of the month, their first event in December will be December 2nd.

Head over to https://www.sofarsounds.com/orange-county to reserve your spot. You won’t regret it!