Home therapy: Sofar SF at the Army Lofts
The first time I stepped foot in 3435 Cesar Chavez I was interviewing. I took my nylons off in the parking lot and slipped on my stilettos. I don't remember now where I stashed them, but I remember being dropped off by a friend and thinking, this is it. I belong here.
I wandered around the gate, past the print shop, to the glass doors and dialed for studio 222. I got the job and spent many days in that studio...running out for taco snacks or cappuccinos. Eventually I got a different job, in a different studio, and instead was running out to sew shops and pattern makers, receiving fabric swatches and models. I would take walks with co-workers to Mitchell's Ice Cream and see what new coffee shop had opened or closed nearby. We'd end our days at El Rio or gather on the roof.
Over the years I made friends in the building and got to see the place after-hours. Many different artists, musicians and creatives live and/or work in The Army Lofts, which was originally a Sears Building. Each studio is completely different in shape and size. Every time a new loft welcomed me inside, I was surprised by its unique use of space and decor. Jam sessions, photo shoots, chili parties & New Year's Eve 2011 are some of the highlights. I've woken up in the Army Lofts, only to run home, change, and go back to work. I've thrown up in the bathroom. I've cried in the rooftop garden and done photo shoots beyond the do-not-enter gates. I spent my mid-twenties in that building. Growing up, growing pains. Last night I got to attend a Sofar SF concert, and it happened to be in one of the Army Lofts, one in which I had never been before, but have passed by a million times. Turn right at the dancing frog, and you're in.
Sofar Sounds is an organization based in London and active all over the world. They organize intimate concerts inside an individual's home. It can be anywhere; last night it was in a place I used to consider a home away from home. Being inside the building again reminded me of my past and made me even more excited about my future.
The goal is to create an environment where you can actually hear and appreciate the music, instead of being in a loud, crowded venue with people too drunk or too preoccupied to watch the band. You don't know the lineup until you show up, and don't have the location until the last minute. Now, plenty of people were on their phones last night, but only during breaks or to take a quick photo. During the sets you could hear a pin drop.
Being invited into a stranger's home is so essential to the human experience, so evident of community, that just the act of walking through an open door made me feel warm inside. The small details of the home--a deck of cards, an old crate and barrel box, the stacked library books, gave us a small sense of the home dwellers, a gentle reminder we were outsiders, yet unconditionally included all the same. Home is just that-- a place where one can go to rest, to recover, to explore, to just be.
The Herbert Bail Orchestra was the first act. They almost brought me to tears. Being so close to something so magical reminded me of why I love live music. They are based in Los Angeles. The second act was The Tambo Rays, based in Oakland. They included a sister-brother pair; the power of siblings centering the group. The third act was Anthony Hall, a singer/songwriter also from Los Angeles. He flirted with the crowd and surprised us with his strong vocals and inspired narratives.
I can't wait to experience Sofar Sounds in other places. Phoenix? Bilbao? Berlin? Who knows. The pleasure is in the infinite possibilities. Future homes and future sounds could be anywhere, could sound like anything, and will definitely remind me of something, some other home somewhere else. Like the name of Herbert Bail's album, the future's in the past.
(Sorry Anthony I didn't get any photos as my camera batter ran out - still learning on this thing!)