Since August last year, bookers Joseff Harris and Huw Thomas- along with photographer Chelsey Cliff, have been running Sofar Sounds events here in Bristol at a rate of roughly two shows a month. Sofar Sounds is a global community of musicians, performers, and curators who are putting on nights all over the world, from Los Angeles to Kuala Lumpur. To attend an event, all people have to do is sign up to the Sofar Sounds website, enter the name of the city they’re in, and wait for an invitation.
Places are limited for each performance, but you don’t pay anything unless you get a ticket, and the curators do all they can to ensure everyone gets a chance to attend. I met up with Joseff to discuss how him and Huw go about curating a Sofar Sounds night- specifically what makes them such unique occasions, and where they fit within Bristol’s well-established live music scene.
Could you, in the simplest possible way, explain what Sofar Sounds is?
Essentially, it’s intimate gigs, in intimate venues- unique venues- all over Bristol. The premise of it is that you sign up to a show, without knowing where you’re going or who you’re seeing, and we will give you the address of the venue 48 hours before the show. You get given the address but you still might not know what that place is. Then when you arrive it’s only as the night unfolds that you’ll understand who you’re seeing.
And how does a typical Bristol Sofar Sounds event play out then? Are there certain elements of a Sofar in Bristol that might be different to one from another city?
In Bristol, we try and give you unique venues- places where either people can’t usually get into, or certainly wouldn’t usually be listening to live music in. In terms of venues it’s very much like the way we curate the lineup- we just try and make sure that the venues can feel intimate, and uniquely intimate, like the church we used in Easton. It’s a very grand beautiful building that people would associate with hymns or carols, and we used it to host a night of electronic music.
Another thing we’ve recently done is strip back the lineup from four to three artists- it just makes it a lot more relaxed. We have three artists doing 25 to 30 minutes each, starting at about half seven or eight, so you’re finished at the very latest at half ten. The thing is, you have to give your full attention, so any longer than that and it becomes more difficult to do that. We have about a 20-minute break between acts as well, so people can chat to each other, and the artists too.
It sounds very distinct from what most people would consider as a traditional concert or performance.
Yeah, they’ll always bring albums for people to buy too. It’s refreshing for the artists to meet people like that I think- acts like The National, Leon Bridges, Lucy Rose, they’ve all played Sofar Sounds around the world and even when it’s those bigger artists, everyone’s still on the same level. The audience wouldn’t know they were going to perform before they got there, so they’re not facing a crowd baying for autographs- just people who love music.
There have been huge international acts that have played Sofar Sounds around the world, but would you say that these nights are predominantly a showcase for local talent?
On the whole, we want to get Bristol based people in, but having said that, there’s a real nice community with Sofar. The last event had a guy who came up from London to perform. People are always trying to do Sofar tours as well, so we do all we can to accommodate them- and that can be people in the UK, but we’ve also had messages from a band in Bogota in Columbia asking if there are any Bristol dates they’d be able to make. For me I always want to have Bristol as the foundation- showcasing the music and the artists of the city, but then also host touring performers.
How do you choose which three artists will play each event?
Between myself and Huw, we try and make it as collaborative and cohesive as possible- so one thing we’ve done before with a few people is headhunt artists who we’ve listened to and really liked their music, and we’ll try and contact them and try and get them to play. Aside from seeking people out, we get daily emails from people asking to play, as well as there being an online platform that you can submit your work to, and we’ll go through that.
So the infrastructure for that is taken care of by Sofar Sounds then- it’s not a case of knowing you guys personally.
Yeah, if you have music, you can upload it to the website, where it’ll be added to a database that myself, Huw, and people running Sofar events in cities all over the world will be able to listen to.
I was going to ask, how do you tailor the performers to the venue? Is there one element you try to finalise first? Or do they go hand in hand?
On the whole, we prefer to find a venue first, and then think about what kind of artists would make an interesting and unexpected juxtaposition with that space.
You’ve talked about what is it that makes the nights you run unique to Bristol, but how do you make your events feel quintessentially Sofar?
What’s important is that every show we do we try and have a balance to every show we do in terms of music. For example, the last show we did (which was in a living room) opened with a very slow, soulful female duo, followed by a spoken word artist with a guitar- he was very comical, and there was a lot of audience interaction, and then after him we had a girl who played the Lithuanian Harp. She got everyone to close their eyes as she performed. It’s all about giving the audience that variety of music without compromising on the intimacy, which is great.
It seems fitting that the event Joseff uses to illustrate the philosophy behind curating a Sofar Sounds gig was one held in a front room, as this was precisely how the community began. While attending a Friendly Fires gig in London, the founders were disheartened at how withdrawn the audience and performers seemed to be from one another. Not just physically, but mentally as well.
Joseff mentions how by and large, if you’ve been looking forward to properly watching the support band, the majority of those around you probably won’t feel the same way. The disposable fashion with which a ‘warm-up’ act often gets treated can create a very distracting environment to listen to music in- spilt drinks, conversations, and phones all throwing up obstacles to people trying to engage with a performance.
It was after that Friendly Fires concert that the founders decided to try and cultivate their own community of artists and audiences who wanted to listen to music with as few distractions and obstructions as possible- starting out by hosting events in their own living rooms.
Can you sum up what makes a Sofar Sounds uniquely special?
I think that it’s the atmosphere of a Sofar Sounds show that allows special moments to happen- the artists are totally accessible, and people feel very comfortable in a room like that. Everyone’s around to talk about the show after all the music’s finished. We make a point of emphasising that although there is a running order, it’s entirely arbitrary- there are no headliners. Everything is geared towards establishing a free, creative environment. We’re all here for the same reason, that’s important thing- it sounds like a catchphrase, but it’s for the love of music, and playing music for people that want to listen. It’s odd for me now, because when I go to a ‘normal’ gig, it’s hard to adapt back to that environment where everyone’s chatting. Even before I started doing Sofar, I don’t think I can recall a single gig where for even just one song, the whole audience was silent. That’s why it feels great to be able to provide that experience for people to come to in Bristol.
* * *
If you’re interested in hosting, attending, or performing at a Sofar Sounds in Bristol or anywhere else, head to the Sofar Sounds website to sign up and find out more at: https://www.sofarsounds.com
All photos are by the amazing Chelsey Cliff- she’s just finished her new website! Pay her a visit at: www.chelseycliff.co.uk
Motion Launches Yard Open Air Club
Yard Open Air Announced
Since starting out as a skate park, Motion has been endlessly tweaked and transformed, its ever-shifting warehouse complex now home to huge raves, intimate sweatboxes and cutting edge live music. For the club’s latest adventure, YARD is taking things outside. A new event, and a collaboration between some of the city’s most established dance music institutions, Yard will bring Motion’s outdoor spaces to life, welcoming a new era of open air clubbing in Bristol.
Summoning that specific type of joy that comes from dancing outdoors, YARD will be split across three newly developed open air spaces – taking place in the Container Yard, Crane Yard and Lock Yard.
For the first event on August 26th, Yard welcomes true genius in the form of Detroit pioneer Jeff Mills. As a visionary who works tirelessly to keep techno firmly future-facing, Mills has been blowing minds for decades, consistently hurtling us into the future while ripping through +130bpm workouts. This headline set at Yard is a chance to lose yourself to the pummeling, otherworldly body music of The Wizard under the stars.
Alongside this rare appearance, they’ve lined up dance music’s eccentrics-in-chief Seth Troxler and Bristol’s own Eats Everything alongside euphoric, bleeding edge selections from Joy Orbison, Daniel Avery, Midland and Axel Boman.
Of the two live sets, expect expertly crafted, pounding belters from Ostgut Ton mainstay Tobias, while Octo Octa’s live performance will weave through the bright flourishes of her trademark infectious grooves. Skilled at creating intimate atmospheres, Daisy Moon, Golesworthy and Gramrcy will bring a taste of their killer Housework parties, while Motion resident Em Williams will be setting the tone right.
Capturing the spirit of outdoor partying, art installations curated by Mr. Price will embellish the excursion with the kind of hazy glamour that his Studio 89 events embody. Energetic shape-throwing is actively encouraged, too, as energy levels can be replenished throughout by our new food traders, who will be serving up locally sourced food.
Yard has also announced that sustainability will be a strong focal point throughout, with leading green thinkers Kambe helping them to get eco-friendly with reusable cups – keeping your shakedown in the sunshine guilt free.
General sale tickets will go live at 9am Thursday 4th May via yard-open-air.club
There’s A Grease Themed Burlesque Show Coming To Bristol
Bristol’s best burlesque night is returning
If your for fun and alternative things to do, then you should check out the unique Burlesque Wonderland for a flamboyant and exciting burlesque night awaits you…
On Saturday 13th May, the follow up to the 2 previously successful shows will see Grease arrive at The Fleece, with an electrifying night full of leather jackets, beauty school drop-outs and the best burlesque dancers in the UK… Tell me about it, stud.
Whether you’re a pink lady or T-Bird, kick start your summer nights with a school dance with a twist!
They’ll have a red carpet ready and waiting, as well as circus performers, vintage DJs, delicious cocktails and much more.
As they’re hopelessly devoted to Grease they will also be rocking around the clock with a night of dancing at an afterparty in a venue around the corner.
Where: The Fleece
When: Saturday 13th May 2017, 7:00pm – 10:00pm
10 Exciting Local Acts To Watch At LSTD
The Bristol music scene is undergoing a renaissance at the moment with some really exciting acts coming up through the ranks. Bristol’s biggest music festival – Love Saves The Day (May 26th and 27th) – is a showcase for many of these acts so we asked Team Love for their top 10 local acts of 2017.
1. Elder Island (Saturday)
These guys are tipped to go onto huge things! They manage to beautifully blend elements of R&B, dance and pop music across a myriad of instruments. Check out their recent Seeds In Sands EP and we’re sure you will agree.
2. Hodge (Saturday)
He has been a staple in the Bristol techno scene for a good while now, but lately he’s really turned things up a notch. His release with Randomer on Dnous Ytivil (Livity Sound backwards) last year was up there as one of our favourites!
3. Deli G (Saturday)
We are thrilled to have Deli G come and join us after having such an illustrious hand in all parts of the music scene, especially in Bristol. He has been involved in everything from building sound systems to regular pirate radio shows. We’re sure he’ll provide a selection of soulful house and garage which only 40+ years in music could provide.
4. Eva Lazarus (Sunday)
Eva has provided vocals for a lot of artists over the years – Jus Now, Stanton Warriors, Etherwood, Dub FX, Danny Byrd and Serocee to name just a few. We’re really excited to see her creating her own solo material now as well as continuing her huge pairings (she pops up on the recent Kreed and Gardna EP). It’s safe to say that she is definitely main stage material for the Sunday!
5. Jus Now (Sunday)
Technically only one half of Jus Now is from Bristol, with LAZABeam hailing from Trinidad and Tobago. However both of them come from a place steeped in bass music and ‘ridden’ culture, meaning that this pairing makes perfect sense and is right at home in Eastville Park. Expect a lot of energy – they are basically made for festivals and carnivals!
6. My Nu Leng (Sunday)
These guys have played nearly every year of the festival and you only have to see the crowd at their sets to see why. One of the most popular Bristol-based acts that never fail to whip up a frenzy, they are such nice young guys who are going to go very far with their music.
7. DJ Die (Saturday)
One of our good friends and someone who has been on the Bristol music scene for over 20 years (he released with Roni Size in 1994). He is currently running a label called Gutterfunk, which has moved away from his signature D&B sound to a wider range of genres, but still aimed heavily at the dance floor. Expect nothing but a party from him on the Dance Off stage.
8. Clipz (Sunday)
Clipz has played for us the past couple of festivals under his Redlight moniker, however this is the first time in around 10 years that he has played under his legendary D&B alias from yesteryear. The fact that he is doing it on our brand new immersive stage, ‘The Lost Gardens’, just means that we are even more excited for a good ol’ knees up!
9. Gardna (Sunday)
Part of Bristol’s new wave of Dubwise artists, Gardna MC is currently making a name for himself with his tight lyrics over future dancehall, dubstep and grime. He will be performing at the festival with Kreed after their recent joint EP, which also features Eva Lazarus and Parly B, who are also playing on the Sunday.
10. Woz (Sunday)
It was hard to pick another recommendation from the Who Cares stage because it’s basically full of the best in Bristol bass music, however Woz is definitely a highlight to look out for. He has really interesting and intricate productions, and his DJ sets are always high-energy affairs.
Visit lovesavestheday.org for tickets and info.
Tickets: Saturday £39.50, Sunday £45, Weekend £75 (all prices are exclusive of booking fees)
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