In a world where no secrets are safe once they hit the internet,. a local chapter of musicians and music lovers has remained one of Miami’s best-kept secrets since 2012.
Sofar Sounds is a global community that began in London in 2009. Fed up with the lack of respect for music and artists, Rafe Offer, Rocky Start and Dave Alexander decided they would create an atmosphere for musicians where enjoying a live show was seen through the lens of the eye and not a screen. Sofar Sounds, or Songs from a Room, has grown into a global movement and spread to 271 cities worldwide. A city leader arranges the curated free concerts in each country, with a team of volunteers doing the legwork.
Andres Daza is Miami’s city leader and came on board with Sofar last August. He doubles as the sound engineer, mixing and mastering the recordings of each session to give professional grade content to the artists and oversees 48 helpers who sign up to work different shows and set up and break down equipment at every event.
The show’s ethos is based on secrecy and guests have to apply to play, host, and attend a Sofar concert. Although Sofar intends for its shows to reach anyone in the community, the secrecy is designed to maintain the level of interest for each performer, Daza notes that when events are open to the public, people will show up to hang out, leaving the musicians as the background noise. Once selected as an audience member to attend a show, guests find out the venue the day before the event and who’s performing upon arrival.
“The philosophy of Sofar comes from the frustration of an audience member or musician trying to be at a live music event and the engagement between those two entities is obstructed by sales of alcohol, cells ringing, people talking, people going in and out of the venue,” Daza said. “I believe ultimately having a public performance is something great, but it’s also a model people don’t respect as much because the public performance often happens in places like bars and venues and at an event where the hang is still happening.”
Daza and his team select musicians and guests. For intimate shows, they may have musicians play their music stripped back; for larger venues, they may book rock bands. Their shows range from about 30 people to 150. It may take months to get into a show, but Daza said Sofar takes into account how often guests apply, and he listens to most of the musical submissions. Artists get about four songs of playing time, and performances have about two different acts per show.
“We are looking to create an intimate, respectful musical experience, and that entails giving your undivided attention to the performer. Not talking, making noise, distracting other people and also not distracting yourself with the phone,” Daza said. “We’re not the phone police. The cool thing about our audience is that they’re made up of music lovers that understand the concept even without me saying it. They just put their phones away.’’
Robson Piers, a musician and the front man of a local band who played at Sofar Sounds, said the experience was different from anything they’d done.
“Our experience there was off the chain. It’s super quiet and no one is talking; you have people’s full attention. You can tell these people are really thirsty to hear some music. It was a very pleasant experience,” Piers said. “I see Miami going back to that place where people really appreciate live music, singer-songwriter music instead of just going to the club.’’
Musicians and guests are encouraged to apply to attend shows in other cities, and Daza said it’s a great way for musicians to perform and network establishing connections around the world. Sofar events are open to anyone who applies, and Daza said he’s working to add an extra show for up to three shows per month.
“Before money, there was community and after money there will be community. As a recording engineer and as a music and community lover, I get to put these events together. I believe that this is a duty of mine to push forward this beautiful format for the enjoyment and the discovery of live music. It represents Miami culture, but it represents musical culture worldwide.”
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For additional information and to apply to attend or host a Sofar Sounds show visit www.sofarsounds.com/