From the Studio

Sofar Sounds has success with first Syracuse performance

Rachel Kline | Contributing Photographer

SoFar Sounds hosts intimate concerts in cities around the world. The first show for the Syracuse branch was Jan. 26 featuring Charlie Burg, Mountains and Valleys and Austin Bonk.

Sofar Sounds has been bringing communities of people together through the power of music all over the world since 2010. Started by two friends in London who had put on a concert in their apartment and were fed up with the crowd for being loud, drunk and rowdy, and barely paying attention to the performance, Sofar Sounds is a global community where artists and music lovers can come together and enjoy a night of raw, uncut music. Located in 310 cities worldwide, Sofar Sounds has made its way to Syracuse, New York and put on its first concert this past Thursday.

The organization was brought to Syracuse by Jessica Berenson, a junior advertising major, with help from Alyssa Gorsky, a sophomore information management and technology major.

Over the summer, Berenson went to many shows in New York City and heard about Sofar through word of mouth — New York City is one of Sofar’s biggest hot spots. With all of the resources Syracuse University has  — let alone all of the resources the city of Syracuse itself has — Berenson said she was shocked to discover that Sofar Sounds is not in Syracuse and decided to put matters in her own hands.

“We’re really trying to focus on combining the campus life to the community life, because I feel like when you’re on campus, you’re not engaging with the city itself, and it’s a really great way to bridge that gap,” Gorsky said.

“I think in essence, Sofar is really about bringing communities together,” Berenson added, “Everything is completely local and everything is completely donor-based or volunteer based. No one gets paid for it.”

This is a factor of Sofar that makes it standout from other performances. The artists do not get paid, nor the venues, and neither do Berenson or Gorsky. Venues and artists can opt to get promoted through the Sofar website however, and audience members can make donations to the performance, but these donations go to insurance and the Sofar Global team. The goal is to make the entire night about music and nothing else.

“It’s a group of people who all share a common love for music, and want to spend time with other people who feel the same way, vibing out all together,” Gorsky said. “In college, I feel like you’re going out and partying hardcore or whatever or you’re doing homework, and I feel like it’s a really nice alternative where you can just be around some people, have some really great conversations and listen to really awesome music.”

Sofar concerts are strictly acoustic-based, so an artist who is able to perform in a setting stripped of any special electronics, sims or lights is able to set up performances through the organization. However, Berenson has still seen a group of eclectic performances through her experiences of attending Sofar shows. Even R&B and electronic artists have found ways to become acoustic so they can perform at Sofar Sounds shows.

Sofar has gotten names as big as Hozier, James Bay, Leon Bridges, Bastille and more to perform at shows around the world. Here at Syracuse this past Thursday, SU student Charlie Burg; local band Mountains and Valleys; and Austin Bonk from Clinton Corners, New York, performed. Every Sofar shows has three acts.

Although Berenson and Gorsky were terrified for their first show, they said they couldn’t have asked for a better turn out. About 60 people gathered in SPARK Contemporary Art Space to share their common love for music, and they’re expecting even more for their next show.

“I had a really great time at the show,” Bonk said, including that he brought his parents to watch him perform — something they normally do not get to do. “They had a blast, too. Everyone at the show was super nice and super friendly, and honestly I think people enjoyed talking to my parents more than me,” Bonk said with a laugh.

The next Sofar Sounds show in Syracuse will be on Feb. 23, and Berenson and Gorsky are trying to find an off-campus house where they can hold the performances. They hope to book one student act, one local act and one either student or local act in order to truly bridge that gap between the local community and the student community.

“It sounds totally corny, but music can totally change a person,” said Berenson. “You can tell so much about a person by the kind of music that they enjoy and the fact that this was such an opportunity for us to impact a community through music, we just saw so much potential in that.”

Said Gorsky: “There’s just so much to share.”


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