SoFar Sounds sets up shop in Winnipeg

Okay Mann, performer at Winnipeg's first Sofar. Photo obtained courtesy of Manitoba Music.

If you didn’t hear about the stripped-down concert featuring local artists Okay Mann, Sol James, and Logan McKillop on Feb. 27, don’t feel bad. It was supposed to be a secret. It was the first “Sofar” ever to be held in Winnipeg, courtesy of international network SoFar Sounds.

A “Sofar” is the network’s term for their intimate shows, featuring emerging artists performing in unconventional spaces to a respectful, appreciative audience.

SoFar Sounds – a network for artists, hosts, and guests – opened its online Winnipeg branch in January 2017. Madi Allen was recruited in August 2016 as the Winnipeg city leader to manage the branch by a friend who was running Sofar Edmonton at the time. She has been spreading the word about the organization through social media, and informing musicians through word of mouth.

“My favourite thing [about SoFar Sounds] is the community. Whether it’s friends of mine, friends of friends, or just Sofar show followers, the attendees of the shows are so supportive. They are eager to come and just quietly witness stunning live music,” said Allen.

Sofars are often hosted in people’s homes, and audience members are expected to remain silent throughout the set. Because of the unconventional venues, usually a small space, artists are required to strip down their set to acoustic instruments only. Vocals are usually unamplified, and artists are encouraged to get creative with their performances to accommodate the venue.

The lineup and venue locations are kept secret. Guests have to apply for tickets ahead of time, and the secrecy of the line-up ensures that guests do not apply for tickets based on who is headlining – this allows upcoming musicians to gain more exposure. Because the events are held in people’s homes, the location is only divulged to approved guests to ensure there are not too many audience members, and to keep the event intimate and respectful.

“I had a blast,” said Katlin Mathison, the artist behind the moniker Okay Mann.

“Because there was no microphone or amplification, it felt much more like playing to a group of friends than a typical venue gig. I could also see everyone’s faces, and noticed how intently everyone was listening. It was a special feeling.”

Mathison was first exposed to SoFar Sounds while attending school in the UK, where several cities have their own Sofar communities. Having heard positive things from other artists across Canada involved with Sofar, he was eager to perform at one himself.

“We welcomed guests to sit in our kitchen and dining room which both have a clear view of the living room, where the performance took place,” Mathison said of the event, which he also helped host.

“We also provided wine and s’mores which definitely added to the intimate feeling of the room.”

The branch is currently trying to reach out to more musicians and audience members to strengthen and grow a community to support and host future Sofars through both word-of-mouth and social media.

 

To find out when Sofars are happening in Winnipeg, check out www.facebook.com/SofarSoundsWinnipeg, or www.sofarsounds.com/winnipeg. To get involved, either as a performer, a volunteer, or a host, and to apply for tickets, visit www.sofarsounds.com/winnipeg.

 

Okay Mann will be playing another intimate show in collaboration with From Here and Away, a Canadian photography and ethical outdoor goods company, at the Forks on March 18. Tickets are available at www.fromhereandaway.ca