Last week I was fortunate enough to be one of three performers at the June edition of Sofar Sounds Brighton, which was held inside the lovely venue of the Dynamite Gallery in Brighton on Trafalgar Street.
After pretty severe delays on the train (considering it was just a 3 minute journey from Hove to Brighton station), I arrived about 15 minutes before the doors opened and a stage was set inside the bay of the shop window. The first act on was a very stripped back version of The Fiction Aisle, just 1/5 of their full line-up with just Tom White on vocals and acoustic guitar, backed up by the lovely sounds of a Korg played by Alan Grice. Their set consisted of just three songs, as unfortunately Alan had somewhere else to be straight afterwards, however the set was certainly short but sweet! Tom’s soft vocals were expressive and dynamic in places, which slotted in well under his guitar playing and the smooth wash of sound on the keys, which featured well throughout, embellishing the chords and playing solos to give the songs a welcome new dimension. I’d not heard TFA before and this appetiser has certainly made me want to see the full band set-up live very soon.
After a quick removal of equipment from the stage I went up to play. As the gig was unplugged, there was no technical wizardry required and without amplification it definitely felt like there was less of a barrier between the performer and the audience. Having not played a live show in a little while, particularly one of this kind with nowhere to hide, I was keen to get my first song out of the way to feel more comfortable. I glanced at my set-list and then ignored it and played an old track Sway that my girlfriend had requested I play and I had previously dismissed. The audience were silent and still. It is quite unlike anything I have experienced as a performer before. I looked up and felt like I was some kind of teacher with the best behaved class in the world. Except I wasn’t teaching them anything, just playing them a few of my songs.
After encouraging the audience to imagine that they were inside the cool looking painting behind me (it was quite hot in the gallery mid-heatwave) I played Is This It then High Masts, a tale of two friends from uni who were never meant to split up (which the audience seemed to genuinely care about). Finally, a shameless plug of my new single All I’ve Got/Heartstrings (neither or which I played as they are piano-based songs) which I encourage people to look up on YouTube as they have cool videos, before finishing off with Spend A Little Time With Me. Applause. Interval. And relax. Buzzed.
Some of the audience spoke to me during the interval as we all stood outside, some smoking and many heading to the corner shop for a drink or two. One thing Sofar Sounds does very well is uniting the performers and the audience, which makes it much easier to interact with everybody and help to develop your fans in an organic and honest way.
The final act of the evening was Will Mussett who performed some solo acoustic versions of tracks from his album November Storm. (You can here the album in full here). Leaning on the pop side of singer-songwriter, Will was featured as last Wednesday’s BBC Introducing Track of the Day with his song Follow, so he is definitely one to keep an eye out for in the future.
Overall, the Sofar Sounds Brighton gigs have been some of the best unplugged and stripped back shows that I have been to in recent months. The unusual venues add an excitement for both the performers and the audience and by keeping things short it gives the audience a chance to try out some new bands and listen to more online/ speak to them after to find out about upcoming gigs. I would strongly recommend all local performers to try to get a slot to perform at Sofar Sounds Brighton, and any new music fans to apply for tickets each month to some of the most memorable intimate gigs you will ever see.