With An Air of Secrecy, Sofar Concert Series Creates a Unique Atmosphere for Music Lovers

click to enlarge Honeybucket - ERIC SANDY / SCENE
We didn't know where the concert was happening — nor who would be playing — but we knew we wanted in. The allure of a secretive concert somewhere in the city was just too much.

On the day of the show — yesterday — we learned that we'd be gathering on a boat docked in Lake Erie, at the shared offices of Arras Keathley and LeanDog. Despite the blizzard raging outside, some 75 people showed up to listen to good music and hang with new friends.

Upon arriving, we were met with a killer spread of hors d'oeuvres and beverages. The pre-show mingling set a good stage.

Posters adorned the walls, finally revealing the evening's lineup: local bands TWINKIDS, Honeybucket, The Modern Electric and national band Beta Radio. Pretty solid stuff.

Here's the whole idea: Sofar shows get you up close and personal with the music. Talking during the bands' sets is essentially prohibited — which is fine, because everyone in attendance was there simply to listen. Even from the back of the room, the music sounded excellent. 


Sofar Sounds originated in London in 2009, when organizers hosted a tiny show in their living room and invited a small number of "true music lovers" to attend. The experience prompted more of these shows, and by now the Sofar team oversees concerts in 90 cities worldwide. The concept arrived in Cleveland last fall when Jeanette Sangston reached out to Sofar to see if there were any plans for Northeast Ohio. There weren't, really, but they asked whether she might like to take the reins and start the group in CLE.

"I totally bought into it," Sangston says, describing the all-in pace she's set as a Sofar organizer since September. The local chapter has held three concerts to date — in October, November and, skipping the hectic holidays while they got settled, February. Through all the organizing and all the music, Sangston is very optimistic about the year ahead with Sofar: "It's just the joy of my life."

Her passion was clear last night as she explained the Sofar concept, introduced each band and generally made everyone feel welcome. People from Arras Keathley and LeanDog were on hand throughout the night, sharing their insanely cool office space with the guests and talking music. In conversations with everyone, it was clear: This is a great idea for a monthly hangout with great bands. 

"Cleveland is the best music city in the country. really love Cleveland and I really love Cleveland's music scene," Sangston says, adding that the city is rich with awesome music venues and promoters, but that Sofar offers a wholly unique experience. "This is truly something magical. It's just a reverent experience."

Anyone interested in upcoming shows should visit sofarsounds.com, where they can follow the links for the Cleveland chapter. The monthly newsletter is also accessible by clicking "sign up" on the group's Facebook page
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Eric Sandy

Eric Sandy is an award-winning Cleveland-based journalist. For a while, he was the managing editor of Scene. He now contributes jam band features every now and then.
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