On a late-July night in Pittsburgh, a lot of music fans were on the North Side, taking in Jack White's outdoor show. But a few dozen were across the river, in a rather tony Gateway Towers condominium, enjoying something else: the first iteration of SoFar Sounds Pittsburgh, a new chapter of a global house-show series.
SoFar — short for "Songs from a Room" — was founded five years ago in London; it's since expanded to cities in 37 countries. The premise is simple: Have small, intimate shows with touring and local bands, held in people's homes, allowing for a more relaxed atmosphere and closer engagement with the music. Audience members sign up to attend via the organization's mailing list; attendees are selected from the sign-up list as space permits, and if you're selected, you find out where the show will be.
SoFar came to Pittsburgh via Gabe Wolford, a musician from the Indiana, Pa., area who recently moved to the city to attend Point Park University. After seeing a video from a SoFar show played by a band he was familiar with, Wolford started thinking it was something that could work here; he worked on setting it up with SoFar's Dean Davis (himself a Pittsburgh-area native), who started Boston and Nashville's groups and works with new cities to launch their own.
"I go to a lot of concerts," says Wolford. "And you have some bad experiences" at conventional venues sometimes. "People are talking on their phones the whole time, people aren't paying attention. Sometimes you just want to go and really listen to the music."
You could hear a pin drop (or a poster fall off the wall, as it were) at the first event on July 27. Singer-songwriter Joel Lindsey, Indiana, Pa.-based band Wolves in Sheeps' Clothing and local indie rockers Nevada Color each played a short set, keeping the volume low and the crowd interaction high.
SoFar Pittsburgh plans about one show a month, and hopes to incorporate touring bands for most; all the shows are recorded and will show up on YouTube. The next show is Wed., Aug. 27. Where? Only a handful will find out.