Sofar Sounds | Our Backstage Bar Event

Earlier this month our Backstage Bar was host to an exclusive secret gig set up by the newly relaunched Sofar Sounds. A night filled with great atmosphere, music and a cracking crowd, here we recap the night with the two responsible for making it happen.


Hello! We are Huw and Joe, co-leads of Sofar Sounds Bristol!

Sofar – Songs From A Room – is a movement that sets up free, intimate gigs with emerging, as well as big name, musicians. Huw had originally been to Sofar gigs in Bristol, London and as far away as Geneva, Switzerland and after the old team disbanded we thought it a crime for a city with Bristol’s culture and musical talent to go without one. We both jumped at the chance to keep the magic going in our own city.

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So, what is Sofar? Sofar was conceived in 2010 when, at a Friendly Fires gig, co-founders Rafe and Rocky noticed just how many people were chatting and gazing into their phones. They thought, ‘there must be a better way to do this’ and so the secret society of Sofar Sounds was born.

Although there is a degree of secrecy, the principles of Sofar are relatively simple. Attendees in each city have to sign up (and then receive an invite) to attend. They don’t know where the shows will be held until the day before, nor the artists performing until the night of. Bands that have previously played at Sofar include Bastille, The National, The Staves and Ezra Furman to name but a few. These micro-gigs are intimate events and so attendees must abide by the following rules; you actually have to listen to the music, the phones need to go off and you’ve got to stay the whole night.

Sofar is now set up in over 200 cities around the globe and across all six continents. In July alone, Sofar hosted 3,000 shows worldwide.
Though Sofar is an international brand, the organisation recruit local community members to organise, film, photograph, and record all the performances on a volunteer basis. Following our newfound involvement with Sofar, we were lucky enough to relaunch the event in the Backstage Bar of Bristol Old Vic earlier this month.

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We felt Bristol Old Vic was the perfect place to relaunch Sofar, owing to its history as the foundation for Bristol’s performing arts and, with such an iconic venue in the bag, securing our debut line-up all came down to a couple of phone calls.

The night kicked off with The Inexplicables playing their unique mash-up of reggae and hip hop. Although everyone was sitting on the floor (unusual for an Inexplicables gig) they were the ideal opening act to build up the atmosphere and get everyone excited. This was followed by Ayah Marar (vocals) and Peter Menage (guitar) playing acoustic versions of her popular hits, including the song ‘Thinking About You’ co-written with Calvin Harris.

After a short interlude and a few drinks at the bar, we were joined by our next act, Fenne Lily. Her original song ‘Top to Toe’ was the real highlight of the night, perfectly described by Joe as “invasive, but in a way that you don’t mind”. The track currently has 5 million plays on Spotify – definitely an artist to keep an eye on. The show then closed with Macaco Project, a Neo-Soul/R&B band, who were the perfect pick-me-up following Fenne’s beautifully ‘invasive’ set. Incredible vocals coupled with sax, piano, guitars, drums and keys had everyone, by the end, thinking ‘why isn’t this band more popular?’

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So what’s next for Bristol Sofar? Well… the next show kicks off at our as of yet undisclosed location on 19 September, to be followed by another once each month. In October (15/10/16) we’ll also be collaborating with Oxjam for an exclusive double-bill event!

Just a final thanks to Bristol Old Vic and the awesome team for allowing us to make use of their incredible Backstage Bar. We certainly hope we’ll be back.


To discover more about Sofar Sounds and to find out how you can attend an event, click here.

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