After applying for tickets through a lottery system, about 45 attendees arrived for a mystery show at a small yoga studio turned concert venue, the location of which wasn’t announced until that same day. The audience discovered the lineup just moments before the three acts took to the makeshift stage of chairs and microphones.
This is what audiences can expect to see at a Sofar Sounds show. Sofar Sounds, which originated in London, has since become a global movement.
Sofar hosts its shows in intimate and unknown settings with mystery artists to bring back live performances and emphasize music over the venue. The venues chosen for the performances are selected by organizers like UC Santa Cruz alumnus Cassidy Kakin, who works for the Santa Cruz chapter. With its first show on Jan. 27, Santa Cruz joined 396 other cities worldwide that host Sofar Sounds.
Saturday’s lineup included Amplified., who featured Alex Abreu on guitar, Ian Janco and Paul Damon. Amplified. is a hip-hop artist who passionately sang and rapped his original tunes, which excited the audience and built up the mood. The Sofar Sounds show was the first acoustic act he played in two years. Up next was Ian Janco, whose indie rock jams soothed the audience with sweet melodies. Janco encouraged the audience to sing and whistle along. Paul Damon, a navy veteran, closed the night with his own original songs that paired deep, soulful vocals with acoustic guitar.
“Playing a show like Sofar is extremely authentic, it brings people together,” said hip-hop artist Amplified. “It is one of the only true ways of artists being able to make fans and being able to make connections with people that’s left because the internet has saturated the artists and the music industry.”
Although sonically different, all three musicians interacted with the audience, conversing and joking with attendees frequently. Janco and Damon brought their significant others up on stage to perform with them, and both asked for feedback on their performances from the audience.
Not knowing who will be performing allows for people to come with no prior judgments about the performers and instead challenges attendees to base their opinions solely on the raw talent of the musicians, Amplified. said.
“Just being in a room with someone who is pouring their heart out and making musical contributions, that is going to move everyone in the room,” said Santa Cruz Sofar Sounds planner Cassidy Kakin. “How shows work now, that moment doesn’t occur.”
Santa Cruz can expect to see more intimate concerts modeled like this one, with the next scheduled for March. The Sofar Sounds model is appealing because of the shows’ small and intimate audiences, said Kakin, because when audience members are positioned 10 or more feet away from a performance connections are not as easily established.
The atmosphere of togetherness at these shows creates a memorable experience for all participants. Attendee of the show Karen Swezey traveled from Monterey after discovering Sofar Sounds through the program’s YouTube videos. She described how the relaxed environment and comfort of the show were one of the things that fascinated her most.
“It is just basically this lovely atmosphere of someone’s home. It is very personal, a lot of people are in close proximity. Everyone is bringing their own food and drink, and it is just like a big house party almost,” Swezey said.
Sofar Sounds shows in Santa Cruz also open up doors for aspiring artists, said hip-hop artist Amplified.
“It is hard to let new talent grow and prosper here in Santa Cruz, so I think that Sofar is a perfect way to showcase and introduce a new wave of artists in Santa Cruz […] and become a part of a family and community,” Amplified. said.