Sofar: So good

Pardon the following mini soapbox.

If there is one thing avid music lovers dread more than hearing their newest obscure indie “find” on the radio—because then, naturally, said indie band must be shunned—it’s “those people” at concerts. The ones with phones for hands. Yes, we all know the type: Heads bowed down and eyes glued to micro screens, fingers texting and Instagramming away at super sonic speeds, phones or iPads (yes, freaking iPads) raised high when that one song that’s infiltrated the radio starts to play. Somehow, “those people” always end up standing directly in front of us, obstructing the view at every show we attend. It’s because they’re everywhere, I tell you—and sadly, they’re not going anywhere any time soon.


It’s true, modern technology has changed the way we consume music so that for many, especially younger generations, experiencing live music isn’t simply about sitting still and enjoying the artform any more. It’s about documenting that #awesome experience on no less than five social media platforms, while simultaneously texting both your grandma and your ex, Googling the nearest Taco Cabana, and maybe even catching up on that episode of Parks and Recreation you missed two years ago. This is what the world is coming to.

And yet, at the Sofar Sounds event in Dallas this past Sunday, you’ve never seen a more captive, less irritating crowd: Fifty to seventy-five people all present for one reason and one reason only, music.

Alas, there’s still hope for us all.

Defying the traditional live music experience, Sofar Sounds brings people together in unorthodox places to enjoy up and coming talent. What began only three years ago in a tiny London flat has since become one of the largest channels for discovering music, with shows being curated in more than 80 cities in nearly 40 countries around the world. Fortunately for Dallas-Fort Worth residents, Sofar has taken root right here in DFW, and in a few years has helped become a starting point for several big name regional acts, among them Seryn and John Fullbright.

Here’s how it works: Each month, Sofar subscribers can sign up to attend a free Sofar event showcasing an anonymous performer or two. If selected to be on the very short guest list, fans will be notified a week before. The catch: guests won’t know of the exact location—usually a residence or commercial building—until two days prior to the concert date, and won’t know who’s performing until the concert itself.

Here’s why it works: Sofar offers something different from your run-of-the-mill concert experience. It’s low-key, it’s personable, yes, but ultimately it’s quite simply all about music. There’s nothing glitzy or glamorous about sitting on some rando’s living room floor listening to a band you can’t brag about seeing. And that’s exactly the point. Going to a Sofar show means having an intimate concert experience with people who value music just as much as you do. No phone side chatter necessary.

This past weekend, we attended Sofar DFW’s August event, joining other guests at an unexpected venue—the MINI Cooper dealership in Dallas. What? Yes. About fifty people packed into the second floor of the dealership, blankets and spare booze on hand, to sit Indian-style alongside strangers and listen to five artists they’ve likely never heard of. And it was awesome.


First on the lineup was Northern National, an indie pop trio based in DFW. Performing for only the fourth time with a full band—percussionist, electric guitarist and backup singers in tow—the three Michaels wooed the crowd with their charm and seriously catchy tunes. Michael squared (really, they’re actually all named Michael) set the stage for a great evening with a folky, somewhat pop-worthy set from their upcoming debut.

Following Northern National was singer-songwriter-producer Salim Nourallah, whose quirky, unplugged act was, in a word, delightful. An award-winning songwriter and producer, Salim performed like a pro, one minute dancing and weaving throughout the crowd to his deftly written “Warriors of Love” and the other, cooly corralling the audience into a quiet sing-a-long of “My Job Is Leaving,” a tune he had played for an audience only once before.



Yet, perhaps one of the evening’s most outstanding performances belonged not to an industry veteran but to an 18 year-old rookie: Alabama-native Edward Hartline. Imagine a cross between the old school stylings of James Taylor, the raspy folk of Ray LaMontagne and, at times, the modern tones of singers like Alex Clare, and then throw in some teenage angst and skinny jeans: voilà, you’ve got yourself an Edward Hartline. The kid is young, a bit scrawny even, but he’s got the stage presence—and the chops—of a man who’s been doing this for decades. And it was clear by the amount of unhinged jaws around the room that, with a few more years under his belt, Hartline is going places. Definitely be on the lookout for this guy in the near future, folks.

Despite the dominant folk presence in the event’s lineup, the last two artists concluded the day on a bit of a different note. Things got weird, in a good way, with Dallas-based DJ and producer Datahowler’s ambient electronic set and the one-man band bravado of Conner Youngblood, the talented Dallas-born artist we came across earlier this year. Standing before the crowd in a t-shirt, sweats, sneaks, and a trucker hat, Youngblood wowed the audience with his sophisticated sound: gorgeous falsettos layered over a vast mix of acoustic and electronic instrumentation, all written, produced, and performed by the musician himself. Following Datahowler’s trippy, synth-heavy sound, Youngblood’s performance was the last of the day—a solid ending to the evening.



Overall, Sofar impressed. Promising new talent, good vibes, and a little mystery all add up to one conclusion: Sofar DFW might just be the Metroplex’s best kept secret. If you’re passionate about music, and hate “those” iPad clad posers at traditional concerts just as much as this gal does, you should check out a Sofar event in your city. Bring a seat cushion and your best hipster beer, but for crying out loud, leave the phone in your pocket.

Discover the artists at Sofar DFW’s August show:
Northern National Facebook | Twitter
Salim Nourallah Official | Facebook | Twitter
Edward Hartline Official | Facebook | Twitter
Datahowler Facebook | Twitter
Conner Youngblood Official | Facebook | Twitter


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