It’s 5pm on a Wednesday afternoon and my email alert goes ‘ping’. My face lights up because it’s a message I’ve actually been waiting for... one that reveals a secret venue for a gig that’s happening the following night. And I won’t find out which musicians are playing until I get there... ooh I love the clandestine nature of it all!
What I do know though, is the evening’s being organised by Sofar Sounds Frome, so it’ll be a unique location that’s for sure. Previous gigs have been held everywhere from a beautiful Somerset barn, to someone’s living room, a well-loved theatre, a barrel room at a craft brewery, a shop selling sofas and even an underwear store... I’m totally cool with live music being performed against a backdrop of knickers and bras, if you are ;).
The point is, you never quite know what you’re going to get and that makes the whole evening even more special. These intimate gigs, designed to bring artists and audiences closer together, are always within around 30 minutes of Frome though, and they’re always limited to about 30-40 people audience wise, so you can be sure of an immersive experience (and there's a 'no phones' policy during the performances, so you won't be seeing it all through someone else's screen either - woo hoo!).
Anyway, for our first time at Sofar, the eagerly-awaited email tells us we’re off to Holt, just outside Bradford-on-Avon and when we arrive, with an open mind and a bag full of floor cushions, blankets and wine, it just so happens we’ve struck gold - in more ways than one.
... and not only do we get to relax in the gorgeous National Trust gardens beforehand...
...we get to experience some of Sonya’s stunning artworks and interiors in a breathtaking setting too.
There are usually three artists playing at every monthly Sofar gig and we happen to spot one of our favourite singer songwriters wandering round the gardens. You could say that's an unexpected surprise and we're now sure everyone's in for a real treat tonight, as we choose our spot on the floor at the front, pop down our cushions and crack open the wine as the gig gets underway.
Being in such an intimate setting, a few feet from the performance, means there's no where to hide I guess. You see every strum, every breath, every expression on the artist's face... and they see your raw reactions too. With someone like Lorena Leigh, who's first up, it also means there's no escaping a bit of a sing along! ;) Lorena bounds in to the room, uke in hand, dives straight in with a story that gets everyone giggling and we're all cheering for her before she's even played a note - now that takes some doing!
Next, it's some guitar-driven magic, with Joel Gardner and his band. They tell us they've only played near Somerset once before and that it wasn't exactly a great gig for them... thankfully this one changes their minds. The guys have the entire house smiling by the end of their set, so they'll be back to Somerset we hope! You can check out a little video of a slice of their night, right here, as they perform 'More to life'.
Finally, we couldn't have scripted it better for us! If you listen to our radio show, you'll know I could be accused of 'banging on about' Tankus the Henge a fair bit. Guess who's up last? It's Jaz Delorean - the hugely talented frontman, songwriter and tour de force of the band, as we haven't seen him before. Tonight it's just his voice, keyboard and some pretty cool headwear it has to be said (and as someone who owns a shed load of hats , I have hat envy! ;)).
As we've said many times, if you get chance to see Tankus grab it by the... well, you know... but whether it's a festival audience of thousands or this smaller audience of 30, Jaz is always involving and he captivates with unique storytelling that hits you straight in the heart.
At the end of the night we leave with cool memories made and possibly a wine-induced glow! ;) All in all, it's been great to discover some new sounds, a surprise to hear some we already love in such an intimate setting and experiencing it in the stunning surroundings of Sonya’s beautiful house has been a genuine pleasure.
So, how do you get tickets for a Sofar Sounds Frome gig? Well, it's basically a lottery. You can apply for tickets up to 5 days before the event, unless they sell out first (no surprise if they do really, as it's £10 to see 3 awesome artists in a unique venue). The team then let you know if you’re in... and if you want to experience Sofar next time, here's where you need to be for the info.
And, if you want to hear more about the Sofar musical movement that’s happening in towns and cities all across the world, check out our radio show here as a little while ago, we chatted to Sarah Swales, the photographer responsible for capturing the very best moments of the night for the Frome Sofar team.
All that's left to say is thanks for the gig invite guys. We can't wait to see what you create next, on November 12th in Bruton.
Our review in three words: secret, intimate, brilliant!
Photo credits as detailed. Where none are included, I took them! ;) Final photo collage includes photos from Sarah, Sonya and me.