Sunday 12 August 2018

A fantastic experience playing for Sofar Sounds in Edinburgh…

AN early start (for a Sunday)..we’re up, showered, some work done, breakfasted and on the road by 10am.

First stop is Perth for a session on touring in Australia, New Zealand and China organised by Showcase Scotland and Help Musicians Scotland as part of The Visit – a delegation of promoters, agents and festival organisers from these territories.

The session is informative and useful and there’s time to network and meet the delegates afterwards.

We grab a late lunch then head for Edinburgh where I;m paying a Sofar Sounds show. It’s a kinda secret thing with the venue only revealed to successful ticket applicants on the day of the show. And they don’t know who’s gonna be on the bill!

Tonight’s event is being hosted at Rock’n’Rose – a cool  hairdressers which has been transformed into an intimate 50-capacity gig space. It’s been sold out in advance and, like many Sofar events, had many more folks applying for tickets than there is space. That’s a good start.

We arrive just after 5pm and are warmly welcomed by the organisers, camera and video crew and the owner of the space.

I’m curious to experience first hand how the Sofar thing works. The concept has attracted a fair bit of positive and negative comment, touted in some circles as ‘the Uber of house concerts’. While the performer fees are pretty low – and can be be forfeited in lieu of a professionally shot video – this, in my humble opinion is not the point of Sofar. The big positive here is that the audience don’t know who they’re gonna see, so artists perform to an entirely new audience. I expect them to be pretty open-minded music lovers who are getting to experience new music in a pretty perfect environment….we’ll see…

There’s three other artists performing tonight – uke-wielding, looping songstress Joanna Wallfisch, performance poet Toby Thompson and a solo performance from Steven Milne of Little Kicks. Yours truly is scheduled to be on last.

Although it’s an acoustic event – save for Joanna’s looping pedal which adds some layers to her vocals in places – everyone does a quick soundcheck for the audio/video recording.

Everyone is friendly and enthusiastic, and immediately the first major positive of Sofar is obvious…the acts have been all been well chosen and curated…I suspect the format will be the catalyst for many friendships and collaborations amongst artists.

Doors open at 7.30pm, there’s refreshments on hand for all the artists and Joanna kicks things off at 8pm sharp with a captivating 20-minute set. Toby follows with an intriguing clutch of poems…again, this is another win for the Sofar format – having been scunnered with schooldays poetry I’d never have imagined enjoying this art form but Toby is fucking amazing. And judging by the audience reaction, they agree.

Next up is Steven Milne – an Aberdeen singer/songwriter better known as part of Little Kicks. Another fantastic performance and I’m getting pretty nervous at the thought of following this lot. I’m also trying not to over indulge in the beer!

Then it’s my turn. reservations vanish into thin air and I have a blast playing my short five-song set. The audience is fantastic and more than live up to the hopes I mentioned earlier.

By 11pm we’re packed and on our way home. Would have been nice to go for a drink afterward, but we have a long-ish drive back to East Loch Lomond and an early start in the morning.

Back home I pour a large dram and, both impressed and happy with my Sofar experience, do a bit of research into the operation. I find this is a pretty serious and passionate business…critics of ‘the deal’ should take a step back, find out what’s involved.

These shows are not about the money – not for anyone involved – it’s about audience development, networking and friendship which at the same time gives those lucky enough to attend a Sofar show a fantastic experience. Plus, we’ll have some official photos and video to share soon.

In order of appearance…Joanne Wallfisch, Toby Thompson and Steven Milne.