Austin’s Best Kept Secret: Sofar Sounds

Sofar Sounds is a secret music event that takes place all over the world, naturally including the live music capital of the world, Austin, Texas.

Story by Hayli Rudolph

Photos by Kristin Evans

Sofar Sounds shows are often held in warehouses and other non-traditional venues.

Sofar Sounds shows are often held in warehouses and other non-traditional venues.

Shows happen twice a month with three to five bands set to perform. The secret lineup allows audiences to enjoy the event with no bias towards a specific band. Event locations are released the day before the show and sent out to randomly chosen RSVP-ers. Many of Sofar Sounds’ concerts are held in local homes, so the last-minute venue reveal protects the host’s privacy. Sofar events have also been held in office spaces and warehouses.

The event was created in 2009 in London when, Dave Alexander, Rafe Offer, and Rocky Start went to a concerts and were livid at the disrespectful audiences. People were talking, using their phones, hanging out at the bar, but not listening to the music. The trio decided that enough was enough. “They got tired of it, so they started doing these shows in their living room,” says Steven Cantu, the head of the Sofar Sounds Austin branch.

The idea behind the intimate shows was to allow true fans to discover new musicians and enjoy an atmosphere that was solely about the music. Fast forward seven years, and Sofar Sounds has spread like wildfire by word-of-mouth to 270 cities around the world. Austin was an obvious choice for the 14th location of Sofar Sounds.

Many of the artists included in Austin’s October 6 show were first-time Sofar Sounds performers, with the exception of a few such as Kylie Odetta. The soulful singer/songwriter has performed a total of three Sofar Sounds events. The musicians apply on Sofar Sounds’ website to perform. After they are accepted, they can play at any Sofar Sound event in the country.

Kylie Odetta, a touring singer/songwriter, performs.

Kylie Odetta, a touring singer/songwriter, performs.

Artists use Sofar Sounds as a way to expose more people to their music and create a unique bond with the audience. “I love shows like this because it’s super intimate,” Odetta says. Many fans feel the same, whether they are returning audience members or first time fans.

Juan Munoz, a first time Sofar Sounds attendee, was enthusiastic about the diverse lineup put together by the staff. A returning admirer, Joel Lowinger, says “I see a lot of music, and this is a better way to listen and hear bands.”

In the crowd, heads are swaying, feet are tapping and the fans are dancing, completely consumed by the music. Guests relax and enjoy themselves, many sipping on a beverage. Sofar Sounds shows are a B.Y.O.B.

Although the staff encourages attendees to relax, there are some rules. No cell phones are allowed during the set, but occasional pictures and videos are acceptable. There is also a no talking rule. The creators of Sofar Sounds organized these events in order to pay tribute to live local music, so the audience is expected to give the band their undivided attention. Last but not least, rule number three is have fun. Throughout the show, bands and staff members ask the audiences to get involved, stay connected and support the artist via social media.

Daniel Eyes & The Vibes, a local Austin band, perform their first Sofar.

Daniel Eyes & The Vibes, a local Austin band, perform their first Sofar.

The concerts are by donation only. However, if you don’t receive a confirmation email stating you were invited to the next event, general admission costs start at $20. The donations and ticket sales go towards future Sofar Sounds shows.

Offering emerging artists, varying genres and two shows a month, Sofar Sounds is one of Austin’s best kept secrets, and it’s so easy to be apart of. To receive the location reveals, go to the Sofar Sounds Austin website and sign up to get emails about future events. As their mission states, Sofar Sounds is bringing the magic back to live music, one small show at a time.