Sofar sounds: hipsters and a cat sitting on a piano

If you haven’t heard of it yet, that’s because it’s a secret underground movement.

If you haven’t heard of it yet, that’s because it’s a secret underground movement. The worlds most cutting edge artists perform in private living room locations creating a spellbinding atmosphere; so the rhetoric would have you believe. It’s appeal is that it separates the wheat from the chaff, audience wise, as only the coolest people know about it. The loophole however is that once you do know about it you can be counted among us, welcome.

It’s hard not to be cynical about these gigs that do everything in their power not to be mainstream by being overtly sub-stream, sewer like, if you will. And I’d be lying if I said I was prepared to try after walking around Seven Sisters for 45 minutes trying to find it. When I did finally arrive I was greeted by the host. Rafe, A camp American who looked like Dana Carvey’s turtle man character (just swap the shell for a ‘Stool Pigeons’ T-shirt and trilby.) and who did that awful thing of closing his eyes and bobbing up and down to the music as though elevated by it like a cartoon hobo floating on the smell of a freshly baked pie. He did his admirable best to push the notion that this was a unique and special experience and most of us swallowed it up. As predictably hip as the whole thing was, (bare brick walls, distressed instruments, A CAT SITTING ON A PIANO? Heaven forefend.) many will have gone away thinking they had discovered something.

Being as late as I was, it was standing room behind the band only which gave me a clear view of the cross-legged ‘music lovers’ who, to my mind, weren’t so much enjoying as logging the bands via mental instagram pics for use at a later date. And you can rest assured that if any of the acts from that night ever achieve so much as a modicum of fame, I’ll be the first to stand up and say ‘I knew them before they were cool.’ until of course they become successful, at which point I will go off them a bit until enough time has elapsed for them to be considered retro, about ten years at the current climate. Then I will say ‘Oh you don’t know them? They were around in the teenies.’ This, as far as I can tell, is the cycle of cool.

It’s not that the music was bad, it was perfectly mediocre. I won’t waste time reviewing the bands, just think of the ads: ‘I like old movies, like Godfather III…’ and you’ve pretty much got it. It’s the folk music revival where instead of singing about box cars and the Union, it’s about awkward silences and lost bubble gum. I have no problem with that, but let’s not call it a movement. Constantly gobbling up new music that’s only good because it’s unheard is more like a sad parody of than a mutiny against the fleeting pop stars they propose to be revolting against. If a tree falls in the woods and no one is around to hear it, does it get a record deal?

Perhaps I’m not really so angry about the pretence and the throwaway culture as I am about having to commute 2 hours to see buskers playing in a living room. Is there something I’ve missed that these doe eyed hipsters all seem to understand? Because there’s a look on their faces like Will Smith when he met Obama. Like something important might be happening in front of them so they’d better stare and nod like they understand. I felt a slight twinge of solidarity when the cat threw up on somebody’s bass player but the real relief came when that trilby started circling and gathering up fivers. Then I knew at least one person in the room had his head screwed on.

Image: Sofar Sounds