It was dark. It was cold. My bloody bags were fricking heavy. And I had no idea where I was going.
Did I mention that I knew I’d have to spend half the night on a train station? No?
Well. It was obviously destined to be a great night. Not.
Or maybe it was.
I had been shuffling through the streets of London for hours, just to get Christmas presents for my sister. It was only a few days before Christmas, so you can probably imagine how much fun that was – especially since I was armed with a huge travel bag and a backpack ready to burst open any moment and spill several notebooks, pens and pencils on Oxford Street. It wouldn’t have needed more than someone tipping me on the shoulder to make me fall over. From that point of view, I was glad it was so crowded – there simply wouldn’t have been any space for me to fall down and lie on the ground as helpless as Gregor Samsa in Kafka’s The Metamorphosis.
Unsurprisingly, I was quite happy when it was finally time to leave central London and head north. Because clever me had decided to treat herself to some fun after this: I’d (finally) go see a Sofar gig!
In case you’ve never heard about it: Sofar Sounds was founded by a group of friends who were sick of not being able to enjoy concerts because of people talking, shouting, filming and throwing cups of beer all the time. They started organising intimate gigs at people’s homes or other small and unusual locations about six years ago, and it worked so well that Sofar gigs take place in 309 cities all over the world now. (Needless to say that Lincoln is not one of them.)
When I stumbled across Sofar Sounds and its credo Bringing the magic back to live music on Instagram, I was immediately hooked: Magic, you say? And live music? I’m on my way!!
Three years later, I finally got there. Yeah, I know – that took me quite a while. But if you live in a part of Austria that isn’t Vienna, you tend to miss out on a lot of the fun. You have mountains, they say, what else do you want?
Fortunately, it’s different here in England (you have to make up for the lack of mountains somehow), and London is basically the capital of the Sofar universe, so when I realised that I’d have a whole evening and half a night to kill there alone, I knew what I’d be doing.
Two weeks before that day, I applied for tickets without knowing who’d play – that’s only revealed at the gig (it’s always three artists, and any genre is possible – even spoken word). Luckily, I made it on the guest list at the first attempt, immediately feeling a little VIP.
A day before the gig, I was sent the exact address of the location. Somehow, I managed to spend 15 minutes walking around the area like a complete idiot because I couldn’t find the right place despite Google Maps (mental note: next time, google the location so you know what exactly you are looking for. That might help.).
But I made it, and, frankly, it was one of the best gigs I’ve ever been to. There really is something magical about Sofar: it’s all about the music, and everybody respects that – no one is talking, no one is filming, everybody just listens, completely mesmerised by the performances. I can’t remember having been to a single gig where nobody was waving smartphones and selfie-sticks into the air, so this was quite a weird experience. Weird, but wonderful: everybody – the group of students celebrating a birthday, the hip couples in their late 20s, the old lady accompanying her teenaged granddaughter and the artists themselves – left the room with a wide smile, pledging to come back soon for another magical night.
What a contrast to that afternoon in the city centre. And what a contrast to the gigs I’m used to! I love festivals and concerts where you can sing along and jump around like an idiot, completely lose yourself in the moment and just be part of the crazy joyfulness around you, but there’s something really special about more intimate gigs – maybe it’s the connection with the artist, maybe it’s the laid-back atmosphere, maybe it’s the element of surprise. Very likely, it’s a combination of all that.
After the gig, I felt so cheerful and elevated that I didn’t even mind having to spend the next few hours at a train station. At least not until I was there and remembered how slowly time passes when you’re cold, bored and tired.
But it was worth it.