The Revolution Will Not Be Amplified
There’s plenty to be said for the louder parts of the Berlin Festival and the maze of club nights to get lost in, but tucked away in unassuming apartments is a whole different kind of music event.
Sofa Salon is, more or less, a monthly event often held in Moabit but more recently has been making its way around the living rooms of Berlin. There’s something of a secret society about the whole thing, passed by word of mouth and confirmed only through covert emails. All of that means that at each Sofa Salon there’s a mixture of old hands and newcomers, making up the small intimate crowd to see Berlin based and touring musicians.
“It depends on the living room. Thirty is comfortable in most people’s living room in Berlin,” says organiser, hostess and chanteuse in her own right Sam Wareing. “The last one in Charlottenberg was in a really wonderful living room and people were emailing right up until playing time so we ended up with about sixty five people.”
The 34th and 35th editions are happening this week as part of the Berlin Music Week programme. Wareing has been playing with the format in more recent editions, including booking more acts and seeing just what kind of show a living room can give.
“It’s got more flexibility,” she says. “The beauty of it is such a simple concept, you book a couple of acts and buy a couple of drinks. Whoever’s house it is gets a nice opportunity to clean their apartment and sort things out, so it’s good for them. You meet a whole lot of people and have a house party.”
Wareing describes the intimate crowd generally as those whose club days are over. The performances are heavily focused on the music, to the extent where it can be confronting to the performers.
“You hope for that kind of reaction when you start to play but when you walk on stage and already have everybody silent. A lot of people find the intimacy and the level of the attention a little unnerving. But everyone usually steps up.”
The series started in June 2010 when Wareing responded to a culture festival ad in Moabit.
“They were having an annual cultural festival in Moabit and they asked for submissions for an in show programme. So people would show their stamps or some part of history. So I said to my housemate, ‘I know all these great musicians, can we put something on?’ And we ended up having a three-day festival, two afternoon shows and an evening show with three acts. It was so much fun.”
Some of those original guests still regularly come to the Sofa Salon shows. At the start of this year Wareing began capturing the shows as a record of the music she’s listening to and as a way of promoting the acts. It also helped quench her desire to get back into radio, a medium she left behind when she left Melbourne for the bright lights and TV tower of Berlin. The Sofa Salon podcasts are available on the website and soundcloud.
The two Sofa Salon shows on the Berlin Music Week programme are just part of what Wareing and her collective A Headful Of Bees are putting on for the festival. Songwriting workshops, a collective showcase and a few other surprises are all lined up.
Sofa Salon 34 is on Wednesday 5 September, featuring Phia and Town Of Saints
Sofa Salon 35 is on Friday 7 September, featuring Mute Swimmer and a surprise guest.
For booking and more information, head to sofasalon.de or find them on Facebook.
Article by Jason Kenny