Currywurds - Devourable Content
March 2018

”SOFAR SOUNDS” FEELS LIKE STORYTELLING AND SMELLS LIKE A HARDWOOD FLOOR


At the phrase “live music,” my earbuds are wired with the upcoming performer’s EP, and I’m already choosing the perfect midnight outfit. I prep for a concert like each track is an SAT buzzword and every band member is another subject I need to memorize. That’s why the Sofar Sound model, first conceived in London in 2009, threw me a musical curveball I was too confused to hit. The location and artists were a secret until the day of the concert – what kind of underground speakeasy did I sign up for? However, I welcomed the “no texting, no talking” rule since watching a band through someone else’s iPhone drives me up the wall. Sofar Sounds has attracted the talent of Hozier, Bastille, and Leon Bridges, their slogan of “secret gigs and intimate concerts” setting the bar high for Gainesville’s rendition of it. Reprise has already written about intersectionality and the lack of diversity in the Gainesville music scene, so I was apprehensive about the artists Sofar would line up. 
I could’ve written a news story about the founding of Sofar, its impact on the local music scene, and other nonsense that leaves the reader with nothing more than crumbs from a leftover snack. However, it was the storytelling aspect of Sofar that had me curious as to what Monday evening would entail. I spoke with Brandon Telg, the organizer of Sofar Sounds Gainesville and co-founder of Self Narrate, about the first local Sofar event and its connection to our community.

“There were three criteria for setting up a Sofar Sounds. 1) Would it be a show I would go to? 2) Would the show put Gainesville artists on the international stage? And 3) How effectively would a Sofar Gainesville build bridges between musical communities that don’t talk?” The point of a Sofar show (besides the banging tunes and element of “cool”) is to generate conversation through storytelling, especially between parties who don’t usually conversate.
Although I went to the show with friends, going alone almost seemed like a more attractive option, the possibility of novel people and a close-knit space exciting. Storytelling, explained Brandon, would also help people who want to be integrated in the Gainesville community connect more closely. “Meeting people” isn’t constrained to Tinder these days; it’s also possible in speakeasy-esque shows and inside theaters that resembles churches more than The Globe. People don’t talk anymore, and Telg (along with host Jaron Jones), aimed to fix that through diverse live music. 
“It’s supposed to be a lightning rod, bringing people together so it bleeds into every element of the Gainesville music scene,” said Telg.

I liken these local human connections to synapses in a very busy brain. We’re distracted, we’re fixed on our Top 100 playlist on Spotify, yet something electric happens when live music we’re not familiar with plays. At least that’s the dimension I experienced Monday night, the basses and the brass sounding dissimilar to the ear but so similar in the heart.
Telg has been working on bringing a Sofar Sounds experience to Gainesville for years. He started by introducing a “secret show” at the Changeville Music Festival he also directed a few weeks ago. However, instead of having artists perform at traditional venues such as The High Dive or Heartwood Soundstage, Sofar Sounds is hosted in more discrete locations, such as a museum or a someone’s living room.

“Gainesville has so many individual ‘silos’ that don’t connect…Sofar is designed to create points of connection between strangers at a show. Everyone already has things in common…we’re building communities and hosting a curated experience.”
The first Sofar Sounds show was hosted at the Actor’s Warehouse in downtown Gainesville. A side-street building with gothic windows and creaking floors, it could’ve been a church rather than a joint for convert concerts. The three acts that performed, Ricky Kendall, Flipturn, and Sooza, settled into the space like dust, their music coating everyone in a fine layer of talent. I was transfixed. It’s one thing seeing Flipturn bang out Chicago at The High Dive; it’s a different beast altogether when they’re sitting ten feet away without smoke and Stella bottles surrounding them. Even the performers I didn’t know – Ricky Kendall and Sooza – expanded (and in Sooza’s case, created) an appreciation for their genres Spotify couldn’t have given me.
                     
           


Besides learning that sitting on a hardwood floor in a skirt is a terrible idea, I learned more personal stories Monday night than in an entire semester of What Is The Good Life(IUF1000). Jaron Jones encouraged the patrons to interact, asking us probing questions such as “What song has made you cry?” and “If you could only listen to one album for the rest of your life, what would it be?” This personal aspect, way more intimate than a traditional show, caught me off-guard. I was expecting the storytelling to come from the artists exclusively, not the patrons with attentive eyes and a knack for talking about obscure albums.

These questions created stories I didn’t know were inside me – the time I balled while listening to Love Is a Laserquest (Arctic Monkeys) and driving to Leonardo’s pizza, the afternoon I spent lying on my bed and listening to Tame Impala’s Currents in a dizzying spiral. We all have stories, and in the safeness of a Sofar space and with people who tick the same way, the night was a success.

The artists’ stories were also amusing and intimate, remining the audience they were people instead of talented hands and voice boxes. Ricky Kendall opened the night with an acoustic feast, treating us to his shortest song, “Leaves,” and his gravel voice reminiscent of Billy Bragg and Wilco.

Flipturn went to town with Six Below, August, and Chicago, a cover of the Rolling Stones’ You Can’t Always Get What You Want well adapted to Dillon Basse’s dynamic vocals and the group’s guitar finesse.
                             
    
“You ever have those right people you meet at the wrong time? Well, there was this girl who was great in August, but all the other months were total shit,” said Basse when introducing August. Heartbreak (or rather, college bullshit that gets everyone down) wasn’t the only story of the night. The drummer for Sooza was a three-day old recruit, the original drummer having injured his wrist a few weeks before the show.

“And if you see Dave, make sure to thank him because he is literally the man,” said Ryan, saxophonist of Sooza.

There’s no need to write about the actual quality of music because, of course, it was impeccable. It was the personal details and the feeling of a wedding reception dinner rather than a rager that captivated me. I discovered that Jaron Jones was obsessed with Space Jam and that Madeline Jarman from Flipturn cries when listening to My Heart Will Go On by Celine Dion– how much better could the night have gone?

Brandon Telg’s mantra was “building bridges” and connecting communities that don’t normally speak. To say he achieved this is an understatement; I witnessed my first brass band and spoke with friends I haven’t seen in months. It was a Monday night by definition, but those two hours were penetrating and powerful, Space Jam, college drama, and injured wrists included.


M.K.P.
CURRYWURDS - 2018