KidFree: Surprise, Secret Music Events with Sofar Sounds

Local bluegrass band By & By performs for Sofar Sounds

Local bluegrass band By & By performs for Sofar Sounds



In case my blog doesn’t make it obvious, I love discovering new adventures and having different kinds of experiences, both with my kids and without. I value my “grown-up” time, whether it’s a night out with my husband or friends, a daytime venture, or just doing something for myself. Having some time sans kids is important for my sanity life balance. I know this is a sentiment echoed by many parents, so I thought I’d put this all together and, every now and then, share some ideas for those “KidFree” occasions. And I’m starting with one of the cooler things I’ve recently experienced: Sofar Sounds.

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So, it’s a random Thursday evening, and I’m hanging out at a nondescript row house in the heart of Petworth with a roomful of people I have never met before watching some local bands play. (You know, a typical Thursday night for a mom of two elementary school-aged kids.) And while I’m there for the concert, I didn’t know who would be playing until I arrived at the house. Even more, I didn’t know exactly where it would take place until the day prior.

Broke Royals kick off the concert with a 4-song set

Broke Royals kick off the concert with a 4-song set

What I did know beforehand was that Sofar Sounds, the global music series producing the concert, was right up my alley. When I received an invitation to attend, I learned that Sofar (which stands for ‘Songs from a Room’) creates unique live music experiences through secret shows hosted in intimate spaces. I love live music in small settings as much as I enjoy new, unique adventures. I also really like neat surprises. So, I RSVP’ed a zealous “hellz yeah!” (well, not really, but I was excited), worked out a date to go, then waited over a week for the rest of the details.

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That’s not normally how it all works, however. Sofar Sounds hosts these music events in over 250 cities around the world. If you want to attend one in DC or elsewhere, you can see dates and areas of upcoming shows, then you have a couple of options: You can buy a ticket to guarantee entry in many locations or you can apply for a free ticket (though how guests are selected, I’m not sure).

So, the day before my show, I receive an email with an address, arrival time, and a heads-up that the event is BYO and that we’d likely be sitting on the floor in case I want to bring a pillow or something for comfort. I still have no clue what to expect music-wise.

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The next day, a friend and I Uber to the address, which turned out to be said rowhouse in Petworth. A Sofar rep greets us and gives us the lowdown on the show. A sign hanging by the door lets us know that By and By, Be Steadwell, and Broke Royals would be the artists performing. I hadn’t heard of any of them, but that’s all part of the adventure — discovering new music. So, we pour our wine (we brought our own cups, too) and take it out on the back deck where other concert-goers and band members are hanging out. People are mingling, and we chat a bit with the Broke Royals lead singer about his day job at the Apple Store.

Guests and band members hang out before the show

Guests and band members hang out before the show

Sofar Sounds gigs aren’t always hosted at a house. The location might be a warehouse, store, pop-up space, office, theater, even a museum. And a cool thing regarding the venue, is that anyone can apply to host it — yes, you could potentially have a concert in your living room (or basement or bedroom) with a random group of people you don’t know in the audience.

After about 20 minutes, the show is ready to begin, and we all gather in the living room, some people on sofas, most on the floor, others standing along the wall. Everyone is there to enjoy the music, and the rule is no texting, talking, or filming (ok, so I broke it, but I was there as “media” and, hopefully, low-key about it).

Be Steadwell mesmerizes the audience

Be Steadwell mesmerizes the audience

I don’t know if we got lucky, or if they always get good acts, but all of the performances were fantastic — and all so different. Broke Royals played acoustic versions of their alternative rock songs, encouraging audience interaction as we sang parts of the chorus. The super talented Be Steadwell described her unique sound as queer pop. And By and By closed it out with a fun set of jubilant bluegrass. It was great entertainment, and something about being in that intimate space under those “secret” circumstances added a bit of enchantment to the whole experience.

The concert ends and we hang out a little while longer, talking with other guests on the front porch before heading home. I’m back at my house before 11 — the concert started a bit after 8 — in time for a good night’s sleep, with nw tunes playing in my head and grand ideas of hosting a Sofar gig at my house.

Ready for a KidFree evening with Sofar Sounds? Visit the website to read more about their mission, and check out upcoming concert dates in DC.


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