June 9, 2017
Studio 7, Shoreditch, London
Sofar Sounds is an international phenomenon that started in London in 2009. These days, they put on over 100 shows a month in London alone, as well as gigs in over 350 cities worldwide.
The audience selects based on date and part of the city. The really intrepid can even go for the full ‘secret location’ experience. Occasionally there may be an inkling of the type of venue (home/church/warehouse etc.) but usually that’s potluck. The biggest surprise of all is the performers. While it’s not forbidden for the artist to advertise the show, the crowd is generally unaware of the bands or even the genres until they’re sharing the same space.
“Your living room isn’t that big though”
Those crowded into a Shoreditch studio on a hot July evening were certainly in for a diverse line-up. Truth be told, there were a few raised eyebrows when the c word came up. Luckily for the ‘Like Garth Brooks?!’ brigade, the ‘country’ in question was pretty far along the Americana spectrum; more singer-songwriter than spurs and stetsons. Two Ways Home opened with Fall Together, a jaunty, energising little number.
They often perform as a duo, but here they performed as a trio with Michael Clancy. This meant they stepped up the country a little more in Two Short Years to showcase Clancy’s countrified guitar licks and Isabella Mariee’s vocal reach.
The band slowed things down with a tender rendition of Better Days which perfectly showcased their unplugged vocals in the hushed room.
The crowd certainly seemed on board with the country thing by the end of a set, willing to sing along during a stomping performance of Push and Pull.
Everyone was relaxed enough for Lewis Fowler to reveal the band’s previous name. It’s more than my life’s worth to repeat it here, of course!
“I write songs and I sing them”
Leon Jacques’ understated description was pretty apt for a chill, almost spoken word performance style, punctuated with deep vocal runs and a musical theatre style range.
He was accompanied by Shanisha on guitar and a hype man in the background dropping emphasis and falsetto flourishes.
There were songs of eviction, rejection and intensely personal sorrow – “my cousin lost her baby to sleep” – but there was hope too. He shared stories of finding warmth and love in the darkest places, grounded by the idea that everything happens for a reason and things will get better. He explained that this optimistic outlook was the legacy of his grandmother who was also his best friend.
“Is it a curse? Is it an insult?
The compère’s whimsical style turned on the name of the next band: Yakul. The drummer was on best behaviour with a broken arm, but the rest of the band filled in with a capella parts, falsetto interludes, a lounge vibe, and a healthy dose of neo soul.
Visit sofarsounds.com to find out how to attend a SoFar show or even host one!