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Live Music Review: Sofar Sounds' Second Birthday at Mimm Store

28 November 16 words: Elizabeth O'Riordan

They set up initimate gigs all over the country, including in our humble city. We got down to see some fresh talent in one of our city's shopping centres...

I arrived at Victoria Centre at 7pm for a secret gig to celebrate Sofar Sounds’ second birthday in Nottingham. Feeling very important after being ticked off a guest list, I took my place with everyone else on the floor. People had bought bottles of wine, snacks and even some pillows. Surrounded by rails of clothing in the Mimm shop, this was the furthest thing in the world from the usual push-and-shove of shows.

Sofar Sounds was set up in London when three mates got sick of people chatting over warm-up acts and disrespecting the music without giving it a chance. They began shows in their living room, bringing guests together in intimate settings, and the idea grew. Now, there are gigs being played in unusual settings in over 280 cities worldwide. They’ve been in Notts since 2014.

The idea is simple. A selected few are chosen to come to a show, the location is secret until the day before, the line-up is only announced on the night and you come to listen. Listen without any predisposition to genre. Get into the music. Just enjoy.

After half an hour of chill house music playing from the speakers, the show began. On came the messy-haired Martin Luke Brown with his keyboard and avocado-print t-shirt. I wondered how he might define his act. Was he acoustic? Pop? Really, at the core, it was strong and clear vocals. His set began with a song about childhood called Nostalgia and ended with him leaning into the microphone to say “Uh, this one about sex” with a chuckle. The audience were hooked, mouths dropped, and everyone eventually sung along.

As a regular attendee told me “It’s intimate, you can talk to the artists” so with congrats to Martin and a few handshakes as he left, the second act took stage. The Tribe were introduced as a “Reggae, hip hop, awesomeness group” which proved true. The well-timed, fast voices moved around snappy lyrics over the guitar. Topics included: arresting criminals, renewable energy and the television messing up your vision. We even got to hear their latest release, Share the Rhythm. They had the crowd’s arms in the air with the tune Jump Up, and the energy never dropped.

Next, the audience took over to sing Sofar Sounds a happy birthday as a number two candle was lit on a cake. Buzzing from the atmosphere and sugar, we sprawled across the floor for the final show. I could see a drum, three guitars and three brass instruments. The seven-piece Kioko dominated the small space in front of the black and white wall art. This group of musicians are redefining pop, reggae and brass with an exploding collaboration of sounds. An empty shopping centre has never been so full of life before. The vibe kept building as you felt the music through the room until everyone was on their feet and dancing and singing back to songs from the upcoming EP Let’s Be Frank.

After half the band dived to the floor in performance, it was all over. We left the most brilliant birthday party and, as one bloke sitting near us said, “Proper good vision, this is.”

Sofar Sounds website

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