If 40 music fans gathering to see a show without prior knowledge of the artist bill wasn’t surreal enough, the March 1 Las Vegas debut of the 40-city-strong Sofar Sounds live concept took place in the jungle-themed room of Zappos and Downtown Project leader Tony Hsieh’s Ogden apartment.
After we arrived and gawked at the faux foliage, Richard Grewar of the DTP Music Team—which initiated and produces Sofar Las Vegas—asked us to sit on the hardwood floor and keep quiet, though we could mess with our cameras and social networks (and hashtags for Sofar and the bands, of course). A Sofar show might be a glorified house concert, but its potency comes from audience members sharing their discoveries with their Internet circles. “It’s that lack of knowledge of what goes on in Vegas with new music that we think will intrigue people even more,” says Sofar co-founder Rafe Offer.
During Saturday’s show, we took in two engaging LA acts—indie-blues trio The Dead Ships and soulful synth-pop act Sun Rai; Austin expats and hilarious spoken-word poets Krissi Reeves and Mike Henry (the latter also on the DTP Music Team); and homegrown quartet Rusty Maples, which seemed taken aback by the anomaly of a quiet, focused audience.
In the end, both Grewar and Sofar LA co-leader Jaime Bernberg were thrilled with the results. “The enthusiasm for more—people wanting to know when the next one was or offering to host—was immediate,” Bernberg says. “You really can’t ask for more after the first Sofar show in a new city.”