Sofar Sounds London @ Poplar Union

Sofar Sounds is an international organisation set up by two east London lads a few years ago. The premise is simple, use peoples houses and flats as the venue and invite artists to perform for a small group of 40ish people who don’t know who the performers are until they start playing.

The mystery is undoubtedly part of the appeal as you really can get anything and I have plenty of friends who have come back with positive reviews.

On Friday, I went along to the newly opened Poplar Union, in the heart of East London, to find out if it was worth going to a gig without knowing if any of the acts would actually be any good…

The Union was comfortable and dressed appropriately for an intimate gig though the lack of seating meant that the audience had to sit on the hard wooden floor for the duration, something I avoided by grabbing a chair from which I could lord over everyone like a primary school teacher at school assembly.

Anyway, first up was LISKA an Irish vocalist accompanied by a keyboard player.

first act

The bleach blonde bobbed girl had a great voice and caught me off guard with how well she hit each note as her velvety songs, which sounded like they could have been heard from the back of a New Orleans blues bar in 1957, filled the room.

The only complaint I would have about LISKA is that it didn’t feel like she ever moved out of second gear and the songs she performed were restricting. It would have been nice to hear something quicker, something a little more upbeat than the 5-6 tunes about lost love and longing.

Next up was a London based poet named of Jack Miguel.

act 2

Miguel addressed the small gathering and talked about the context of his work before launching into his performance.

Personally, I think this is a must for a poet delivering on stage. The trouble with poetry is that you need to fully understand the ideas, thoughts and motivations of the creator to really grasp what they are talking about, there is no music to enjoy if you don’t get the lyrics, all of the focus is on the meaning of what is being said so if you have no idea what that is, you miss out on the good stuff.

Miguel introduced his work as having a strong focus on masculinity and went on to deliver several thought provoking pieces which I could enjoy thanks to his intro.

Listening to poetry of this nature, with the incandescing lights of Canary Warf blazing in the windows behind the performer, was interesting to say the least as that particular part of London is inexorably linked to macho culture and masculinity which undoubtedly added an interesting slant of the whole scene.

Jacob and Goliath were the final performers of the night and the stinker that I had been afraid of finally arrived…

act 3

Hailing from West London, one on acoustic guitar and one on a box (literally). The pair opened with a dead ringer for a Mumford and Sons song and I was immediately annoyed.

Another 5 country songs of this ilk followed and continued to irritate, as a sound which died a definite death 4 years ago, was forced into my objecting ears.

I’m all for giving it a go and chasing the dream, but seriously, if you don’t have an understanding of where music is right now and what the trends are, you’re not going to get far. Music evolves just like fashion, film, art, TV, business, social media, bloody everything, and if you don’t offer something new, you’re going nowhere. That isn’t me being harsh, it’s the truth.

As a whole though, I enjoyed the evening. The tickets were also free and I was allowed to bring my own beers to drink while the evening played out so I would definitely recommend going to a Sofar gig as long as you understand that you’ll probably get one bad egg in three….

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