Photo Credit: Vivi Carrasco
Kyshona Armstrong performs at a Sofar Sounds show at 1000 Faces Coffee.
Picture this: You and your friends have arrived at a venue to see one of your favorite artists. The band sounds great, but you can’t focus with all the chatter in the background. You wish, more than anything, that the band would play a personal concert for those whose only motive is to enjoy the music. This dream scenario is what Sofar Sounds is built on. What started as a series of house shows in London has now spread to 423 cities worldwide, including, most recently, Athens.
Sofar Sounds offers a secret-show setup that is accessible to everyone. The shows are built on a raffle system and function the same way in every location. Those who are interested go to the Sofar website, apply for the show date and city they are interested in and wait to see if they have been selected. The day before the show, attendees are given the venue location. There are three bands on every bill, and no one knows who is performing until they arrive.
Lauren Tolbert, the Athens Sofar representative, began her volunteer position with the company last year. After living in London and attending Sofar shows there, she knew this event was something that the local community would appreciate.
“Sofar is something I think everyone who likes music should experience at least once,” Tolbert says. “It helps you really appreciate the artists you’re seeing in a new way.”
Tolbert became Sofar’s Athens city director after she reached out to the organization about expanding to the city. She has since built a team of volunteers to help coordinate the monthly shows. She finds venues and artists, as well as vets those who apply for tickets to make sure the same people aren’t chosen over and over.
In London, Tolbert says she would apply to about three shows a week and be awarded a ticket once a month. The application process in Athens is much simpler, as ticket demand is lower. There is a Sofar show every month, and most who apply are approved.
Though the relative lack of demand makes Tolbert’s job easier, she says she wants nothing more than to see Sofar grow in Athens. Tolbert says she wants to help promote the local music scene, and she makes a point to book at least one local act per show.
“Sofar is about bringing people closer to the artist,” Tolbert says. “There’s no openers or closers—instead, every act is equal.”
There are two rules that Sofar attendees must follow: There can be no talking while an artist is performing, and guests must stay for every act. This allows both artists and fans to feel as if they are fully immersed in the music.
Tolbert will graduate from UGA in May 2019, and she wants to see Sofar grow as much as it can in the coming semester. Those who are interested can not only attend the shows, but they can get involved with Sofar by volunteering. Volunteers host shows, help choose the talent, market the events and more.
“In almost every city you visit, Sofar can be something familiar for you to meet people and have a good time,” Tolbert says. “It’s important to a lot of people, and I hope it keeps growing after I’m gone.”
To apply for this week’s show, go to sofarsounds.com. After that, all you have to do is wait for your confirmation email and enjoy the music.
SECRET CONCERT Apply for tickets online, and find out the location the day before. The artists are unknown until you arrive at the show.