Combining the nostalgic allure of a speakeasy, the surprise element of a pop-up restaurant and the reward of being “in the know,” a new-to-St. Louis group has emerged in the past year that brings those feelings to the concert-going experience. The name of the collective is Sofar Sounds and it has ties to a worldwide movement
“Everyone, you’ve gotta just trust me here,” said Chris DiGiacomo, one of the city leaders for Sofar Sounds’ St. Louis branch.
Why the trust? People who sign up for Sofar Sounds concerts have little idea where exactly they’re going until the day of the concert and no idea what the band will be until they walk in the door. Also, participants pay what they want to pay in order to get in.
“If you have no money, or if you have a lot of money, you can come,” said DiGiacomo of the concerts, which are meant to democratize music for listeners of all backgrounds.
The group has hosted five productions since its inception and will offer it’s sixth on Saturday, Jan. 9 at 7 p.m. “somewhere in the Grove” in a place where there has “never been a concert before,” DiGiacomo said.
Sofar Sounds is an international collaborative that runs concerts like this from Paris, to Antwerp, to Beijing and Cairo. It started in London 2010 after its two founders found they were disenchanted with normal concert venues and spreads to different cities through volunteers who run the different outposts.
“People were distracted by the drinks, the talking, the overall venue experience,” said DiGiacomo. “They decided they wanted to do it more intimate, more where you can talk to the musicians afterwards in a comfortable setting. It’s weird, I’ve talked to musicians after a show in the venue. It is neat but it is not the same if you’re in someone’s living room talking about the performance.”
The most intimate concerts in St. Louis so far have been held in people’s living rooms.
Bands like the American Wrestlers, River Kittens, Monkh, and Lynn O’Brien have performed in St. Louis. Most of the music performed is of the low volume nature, no heavy metal here, and includes a mixture of local and national artists. DiGiacomo hopes to host a variety of acts —from electronic to folk to hip-hop and even spoken word.
“Our audiences can be anywhere from 40 to 100 people,” DiGiacomo said. “We like to focus on making sure our audience is completely engrossed in the music. It doesn’t matter if there are five people there.”
Sofar Sounds tries to dissuade people from texting during the performance to keep distractions at a minimum and ensure and engrossing experience.
To get an idea of what concerts are like, DiGiacomo recommends checking out Sofar Sounds’ YouTube page, which features videos from concerts all over the world.
In order to get in on the secret performances, potential concert-goers must go to sofarsounds.com and sign up as a member. After that, you receive emails about upcoming performances and whoever signs up first, gets in.
“It’s for the fun, for the music, for the experience,” DiGiacomo said. “It’s not about making money. The bands, honestly, don’t care about making money off these shows."
“Cityscape” is produced by Mary Edwards, Alex Heuer, and Kelly Moffitt. The show is sponsored in part by the Missouri Arts Council, the Regional Arts Commission, and the Arts and Education Council of Greater St. Louis.