Sofar Sounds: Common People Special

Performers at this year's festival perform an intimate warm up gig.
Tap Social Movement, Tue 7th May 2019

May 28, 2018
An evening of intimate, acoustic, lyrical fun

Founded in 2009 as an outlet for low-key, intimate gigs in London, Sofar Sounds has expanded across the globe, now operating in over 400 cities. One of these is Oxford where a group of volunteers put together monthly gigs in secret locations. I found myself on a muggy Wednesday in the basement of Modern Art Oxford (as one artist dubbed it 'a class assembly at a nuclear bunker' - I think that's a compliment) sat on the floor watching a diverse quadrant of performers drawn from the Oxford music scene. There was a Common People theme to the night, with three of the main acts performing on this year's Uncommon Stage.

The evening kicked off with OMYO (standing for 'Our Music, Your Opinion') who were an entertaining way to begin our lyrical journey. They were a fun opening act, a band from Thame, formed as part of a bet that they could produce music. As an act they were brimming with character, deftly charming the audience into clapping and singing along. They also produced a remarkable amount of sweat, so much that I genuinely wondered if they'd make it through their set.

They were followed by a particularly intriguing act, Tiger Mendoza. By its very nature Sofar Sounds pushes performers to strip back their sound, with limited setup time and little in the way of space for the performers. Tiger Mendoza pushed these technical limitations to the extreme, with sound aided by samples and beats generated by a computer. There was a cameo from the resplendently dressed Asher Dust whose vocals propelled the best song of their set. This was the act I looked up at the end, eager to delve more into their body of work.

The third act of the evening was a bit of a treat for us. Inner Peace Records are a hip hop collective who had released their album the day before this gig and were playing many of their songs live for the first time. This is clearly a talented group that one suspects would need a larger performing space to thrive, with the nine members in attendance cramped together and forced to share microphones. But there was something fascinating about listening to hip hop songs sat on the floor, with the stillness of the surroundings adding a great potency to their lyrics. The songs became sermons, making them surprisingly effective.

Finally, there was The Deadbeat Apostles, a band who've become a mainstay on the Oxford music scene in recent years. This is, in fact, the second time I've seen them perform and in the past year they seemed to have gained even more swagger, helping enhance their bluesy-country music. It's an enjoyable act to end the night with, sending the audience off into the night in an upbeat mood.

As my first experience of Sofar this was a particularly fun one and I enjoyed each of the acts. I particularly liked the diversity of the performers, with each bringing a different sound to the evening. I strongly recommend you check out the upcoming gigs in Oxford. It really is the most enjoyable way to discover a new act to be addicted to.

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