For those out there who have done online dating, have you ever gotten the question on OkCupid or Match.com that asks “Which of the following interests speak to you the most: a) tv shows and movies, b) artwork, c) books, d) music” or something like that? Well, I really do love my books (my 2018 goal is to read 52 books again like last year… yet, I’m already three books behind, ha!), but music speaks to me the most. Maybe it’s because I played the flute for 12 years straight (yes, I can play the jazz flute), love singing, or jamming out on my ukelele, but I feel like I can connect to music on a deep emotional level. And I’m not talking about connecting to the lyrics. I am talking about stripping away the lyrics, letting yourself connect with the tempo, volume, and notes in their rawest form, and having them resonate within you. After that happens, then I believe the lyrics should be added in to further more complexity and depth to the emotions being evoked.
So, because of the above, I’ve been trying to explore the Baltimore music scene for the past couple of months. My first experience was at Redbull Amaphiko Academy Open House and Gallery Show last August, and damn, that gave me a taste of how Baltimore has this untapped musical raw energy and creativity that people need to know about. I was craving that energy and trying to scout that vibe throughout the city, and I found it again at Sofar Baltimore.
When I first heard of this event, I heard it from Jae Jin, a phenomenal musician who grew up in Baltimore but now travels and performs all over the world sharing his story and his love for music through his voice and his guitar skillz (yes, with a ‘z’). He explained to me that Sofar Baltimore originated from Sofar Sounds, which is global movement promoting gigs in intimate spaces around the world. These spaces could be in someone’s backyard, someone’s living room, in a mansion, in a restaurant, a porch, you name it! When I went, it was at Trohv, a freakin’ cute and whimsical retail store in Hampden that sells home decor, art, baby gifts, and more. Another cool thing about Sofar Sounds (other than the intimate gig setting) is that the information of the place does not get revealed until three days before. To add to that, you have no idea who is performing until you get to the event. Crazy, huh? And get this-the performers don’t even know who’s performing either until they get up in front of everyone and start acting, dancing, singing, doing stand-up comedy, doing whatever they came up there to do. Note worthy musicians who’ve performed were Mumford and Sons, Ed Sheeren, etc. Say whaaaaaa!
After Jae explained all of this to me, I knew I had to go to the event. Problem was that you had to sign up and hope that you get selected by Sofar to attend the event. Yep, signing up to show interest doesn’t guarantee you’ll get on the guest list. Luckily enough, I got two tickets (and they were $30.00 each) and was able to attend!
When I get to Trohv, I got there pretty early and sat myself in the very front. Good move because I would have not been able to take my pictures very well if I had a crowd of people in front of me! Also, these events sometimes don’t have chairs you can sit on, so people usually bring their own blankets or pillows so they can be comfy.
Overtime, people started trickling in, bringing their bottles of wine, beer, whiskey… yes, this event is BYOB.
Finally, the performance started!
The musicians that performed totally blew me away. I remember thinking to myself, “Man… these people could literally get their own record label.” And as much as I wanted to keep hearing each artist jam out forever, each performance lasted for about 20 minutes and each featured a different genre of music. It was such a tease. Like forreal.
There were four musicians performing. I’ve been told that usually Sofar events have three performances, but for this Sofar Baltimore January event, Sofar Baltimore decided to have four performances. But yeah, I’m sure you want to know the line-up. It was Wifty Bangura, Jae Jin, Orion Freeman, and Mo Lowda & The Humble. The line-up was freakin’ fantastic!!! All of these musicians are worth listening to if you’re trying to find some new music.
Wifty Bangura and Jae Jin are from Baltimore. And although Orion Freeman and Mo Lowda & The Humble are from Philly, they’re still oh so so so great!
Wifty had a band accompanying her, which helped establish the spiritual and emotional flow she was trying to convey to the audience. She had a song integrating positive energy, one about negative energy getting under your skin, etc. By the end of her performance, I was a fan. I even went up to her. I told her everything she sung about and the vibe of her music spoke to me. AND SHE GAVE ME AN AWESOME HUG. I was so happy hahaha.
Don’t judge the picture quality. I used my iphone!
I’ve heard Jae perform in person once, but hearing his voice again live was just as magical as the first time. His voice is filled with so much soul. It just soothes your worries away and makes you feel calm. He told me that this was his 20th Sofar (he’s performed everywhere for Sofar and I think it’s his 20th… I know it’s in the double digits) so he’s pretty much a pro at this point. He did his own rendition of Tennessee Whiskey, which I did not record a clip of at Sofar, but I did here at R. House (you’ll need to swipe to the third panel)!
One of my favorite genres of music is eclectic-ish folk acoustic, so when I heard Orion Freeman’s music, I was won over. I was taken on a journey, which he said he wanted to do with the audience. You felt like you were out in the wilderness wandering and journeying to somewhere. For one of his songs, he does a fantastic job starting it calm and quiet and then building it up until it turned loud and intense and bold. I got shivers every time the music swelled. By the way, I suggest listening to “Salvation (The Ballad of a Good Boy)” if you decide to check him out. The song is on his website here. That’s my favorite song I’ve heard by him so far and it incorporates a harmonica!
Last but not least, Mo Lowda & The Humble ended the night on a great note. The lead singer’s voice is so raspy and so raw… gawd I’m such a sucker for that. Mo Lowda has a constant groove you can’t help but move your body to. I think it’s the bass.. or maybe it’s the drums.. it’s something… whatever it is, it’s fucking sweet. Their music is so different too. I can’t really pinpoint a genre of music I could associate them with other than either progressive rock or alternative rock, but when you hear their stuff, you can tell they get their influences from so many different places. So who knows! Honestly, I just feel like they’re just their own genre and their own style of music and that’s that.
Random tidbit that doesn’t flow anywhere: Another cool thing about Sofar Sounds is that you can talk to the performers after the event and during breaks. Sweet, huh?
Overall, I would totally go to Sofar Baltimore again. Apparently they have one every month so if you’re interested, keep your eyes peeled! Oh wait, look here. Seems like the next one is on February 9 in Locust Point. Maybe I’ll see you there!
Sofar Baltimore event location at:
921 W 36th St, Baltimore, MD 21211
Mon.-Thu. 1100a.m. – 7:00p.m
Fri. 11:00a.m. – 8:00p.m.
Sat. 10:00a.m. – 8:00p.m.
Sun. 11:00a.m – 6:00p.m.
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