I told R to meet me at 8pm sharp at the given address last night near Hampstead. 'It is not a venue' I warned him. I did not really want to reveal much of what was going to happen so far away from home. Since I moved to Brixton, to the South, it feels like an adventure to actually travel for something further than Regent's Park , but I knew this occasion was worth the trip.
The details about the whole event were really vague, which made it even more mysterious and magical. Again, as usual, I got to know about the date on Twitter, whilst following one of the participating bands, so I blindly investigated further about how to assist.
I was running a bit late, so my last text read something like: 'Please, get some drinks and meet me at the address if you get bored. It is Joe's house and organised by Meike. Not my friends', which probably made R more disconcerted. But I finally arrived before the 8pm time stated on the last info email, received the day before with some little instructions, and what is more important: the address. We walked through the hilly and leafy streets of Hampstead Heath station surroundings until we reached the address.
It literally felt just like a friend's house you are invited to, except from (I presume) Meike at the door with a clipboard with the guest list, but yeah, we all brought our own (booze, no food allowed, although I witnessed a quite sofisticated Pimm's on the spot with pre-cut fruit in fancy plastic cups) and us, the guests, we found our way through the door and towards the garden, leaving the stage, the living room to the left, accommodate ourselves in the backyard while the event was being prepared. It really felt like a friend's party, one of those you assist as a plus one and you don't know anybody, but you can tell that everybody was in a good mood and quite expectant of what they, us, were going to experience.
The house was lovely and so were the owners, mingling around to make sure everybody was feeling comfortable and enjoying. The fact that the garden faced the Heath and the two cats were wandering around jumping the fences made you think that you were not in London, but more in a country house somewhere far away from the big smoke. The impressive thing is that in spite of being a stranger's house full of random people, everybody was civilised and respectful with the house, for a change, which felt admirable.
I cannot remember the name of the Master of Ceremonies. I just remember that he wore glasses, a hat and that he was the perfect person to run the night and present the acts. He gave us a shout to finally congregate in the living room, either inside in the rug or outside near the conservatory al fresco. He explained what this was: A SoFar Sounds(@Sofarsounds) evening. and he, very enthusiastically explained how it worked, the beauty about its intimate character, and finally, he introduced the first act.
First act: Jono McCleery (@JonoMcCleery), song writer playing acoustic guitar accompanied by 2 other guys guys, helping him with the percussion, a laptop/synth and acoustic bass. Beautiful voice and the perfect start for the evening.
The second one was the most unexpected one: The Boxettes (@theBoxettes) was a group of 5 girls that didn't require any sound check or gear van because their only instruments were their voices. Their only aid was an old school diapason, so Beat-boxing and harmonising, they managed to sing 3 brilliant R&B songs sounding as complex and full as playing Justin Timberlake (ok, maybe this is not the best example) at full blast on your stereo. It was just impressive to listen to all those sounds coming from their voices. They were having a great time and so were we.
After a short break to rearrange the instruments for a final act, we took the opportunity to actually get ourselves inside, as the sun had disappeared and the living room had a few spare gaps left to sit. Again, just like your mate's party, sitting in the rug just felt comfortable, cosy and intimate, perfect for the third act.
Poet Matthew Cuban (@MatthewCuban), an artist from Jacksonville, Florida, master of the spoken word and apparently usual act of the SoFar acts all around the globe: from Tasmania to London and currently residing in Leeds. I was not expecting a poetry act, but Matthew was just impressive. A very cheerful guy, incredibly expressive and engaging and really powerful message. Truly enjoyable.
Finally the fourth act was the reason for me to apply to this specific session: Shields (@BehindShields), a 5-member electro-pop band from Newcastle, which I had seen live before at the Shackewell Arms this last winter and did not disappoint at all. Band who supported Everything Everything in Cambridge the previous night and still, they were quite overwhelmed by the talent of the previous acts of the night. This time, with a stage smaller than the narrow Shacklewell Arms, they still managed to get a drum, three acoustic guitars, a bass, a keyboard and their fantastic colour light props. I was looking forward to see them unplugged, without amps, and obviously, they didn't disappoint. 4 tracks in total, including their famous (and brilliant) Mezzanine, a new piece from their new album (work in progress at the moment), well supported by 'uuuuuhs' from the crowd and the night ended with Silhouette and endless clapping (I was really looking forward to their cover of SBTRKT's Pharaohs, but didn't happen). And speaking of crowds, these northern guys are famous for sharing their drinks during their performances but in this occasion, a member of the crowd (@ImoWatson512) gifted them with 'Special Brew'.
At that was it, 10:30pm and time to wrap up. It kind of left us wanting more but better keep it as it is, as it was: 4 incredibly talented acts playing low-key in somebody's living room. All around the world. That is SoFar.
And I think it is a brilliant idea.
I wish I had a bigger living room, but that's another story.