On a warm June evening, a small group of people got together in their favourite records store, Vinyl Envy, for the debut concert from the Victoria chapter of Sofar Sounds.
Originating in London, Sofar Sounds was created by a couple of friends who were tired of going to the bar to see bands and musicians, only to be disappointed by the actions of fellow concertgoers and the general concert experience. That’s when they decided to invite some musicians and friends to their flat for a low-key, intimate show. It began as a hobby in 2009 to connect music fans with artists, and has since expanded to over 350 cities worldwide.
We recommend you check out the staggering amount of videos they have on their youtube channel from performers all over the world. You’ll be surprised how many notable and critically acclaimed acts you’ll find.
The backbone of Sofar Sounds is that music comes first. They ask that the audience be respectful throughout the performances by sitting, listening, and not talking while the musicians play. It’s sort of like the Milford Academy of concerts and that is a concept which Rocktographers can get behind.
Intriguingly, Sofar likes to keep the venue close to their chest, only releasing that info the day before the concert, and only to the folks who have RSVP’d. Venues can range from record shops to backyards, apartments to flower shops, living rooms and anywhere else willing to host a secret show. Even more secret is the the artists performing. The audience doesn’t find out who is playing until they are in the venue watching the bands play. It’s a great way to keep focus and respect each individual artist performing.
There were ups and downs throughout the evening, but that’s to be expected with any brand new event. The long lineup to get in could have been dealt with a little more efficiently. A few times, the organizers would walk off with the guest list leaving the door person with no idea who was coming in next. We were also berated by the marijuana dispensary owner next door for blocking the sidewalk near his store. You’d think he would be a little more chill based on his profession.
None felt more out of place than the MC and host for the evening. His cringeworthy recital of Wikipedia “facts” and attempt at risqué jokes landed him a smattering of polite grins. While a confident host, it seemed like it was his first time doing standup and he was bombing. Crass jokes about keeping the heroin and fentanyl in the needle or that Fish in a Birdcage made him think of a chastity belt were uncalled for and ugly in a room dedicated to listening to music. The only solace is that every time he left the microphone it meant that a talented musician was taking his place.
Recently Edmonton singer-songwriter Andi Stewart made the trek over the Rockies to call Victoria, BC home. Unfortunately, that’s about all we know about this new addition to the music scene. Luckily, all of the questions we had melted away as she started off the evening at Vinyl Envy with a cover of The Kink’s A Well Respected Man.
Quickly following Andi Stewart was Fish in the Birdcage. A name that instantly made me think of bands like Catfish & The Bottlemen, but was pleasantly by a young man in a three piece suit and bowtie. Oh, and the $9000 cello he’d bought earlier that day.
Dustan Townsend (or as he is better known, Fish in a Birdcage) instantly became a new favourite for the audience. His modern take on the cello was breathtaking. A fusion of electronic music, folk, classical, and indie rock fundamentals. Comparisons to composer Ali Helnwin and alternative acts like Kishi Bashi and Portugal the Man wouldn’t go amiss. After his set, the audience lined up to buy his album, some commenting that they didn’t even own a CD player, but just wanting to support his music.
Another set of newcomers to Victoria was Flawed Hearts and the Waiting Room to round out the intimate evening. Sam and Lindsay Britton, a brother and sister duo, shared stories of their adventures in music school, being roommates, their heavy keyboard, and moving from Chilliwack to the Garden City. Together, the siblings harmonized creating an interesting dynamic while Sam played guitar, and occasionally Lindsay would slip behind a keyboard.
We can’t wait to see what Sofar Sounds Victoria has up their sleeves next. They’ve already set the bar high with the calibre of new up-and-coming acts with their debut show. There is only one direction to go, and that’s up.