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Sofar Philly: Sounds From A Room.

March 21, 2014

Commonwealth ChoirText by Naveed Ahsan. Image by G.W. Miller III.

Sofar Sounds brings together music lovers of all kinds and exposes them to artists in small, intimate gathering spaces, usually in private homes.

“It definitely gives people a chance to experience music in a different way,” says Carolyn Lederach, who brought the international movement, which originated in a London living room in 2009, to Philly in November 2011. “A lot of musicians have had positive experiences because the audience is attentively listening, which is something that doesn’t always get to happen.”

The name Sofar is an acronym for “songs from a room,” which is the title of a 1969 Leonard Cohen album. Musicians usually perform acoustically with people sitting at their feet. There are rarely any other sounds competing for attention during shows.

Lederach, a Penn State graduate, now organizes events with Ken Winneg and Davis Jameson Howley. Winneg picks the house venue and handles donations. Howley acts as the show host.

“It allows me to meet people on tour and anyone who loves music,” says Howley, who is also the lead vocalist of Commonwealth Choir.

Among the local acts that have performed are The Lawsuits, Toy Soldiers, Satellite Hearts, Turning Violet Violet, The Districts, Kwesi K, Maitland, DRGN King, Commonwealth Choir (in the image above), Satellite Hearts and many more.

The Sofar Philly team continuously receive requests from bands – local and touring – to play shows. Venues are often volunteered by someone who’s been to a past show. Fans are notified of show dates and general neighborhoods but details are withheld. About a week before shows, the team reveals the address. However, they don’t make public the bands that will play.

“That adds to the intrigue,” Winneg says.

Since 2009, the Sofar movement has expanded to more than 40 cities around the world, from Atlanta to Auckland, and from Buenos Aires to Barcelona.

The trio in Philly hope to continue building on what they’ve done the past two years. They’ve held shows nearly every month since the series began and attendance has steadily increased.

“I love the music and I love being part of the Philly music scene right now,” Winneg says. “I want to help bring people together. We’ve had 17 shows so far and they all have been phenomenal.”

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