SoFar Sounds Comes to SLU to Benefit Overground

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SoFar Sounds Comes to SLU to Benefit Overground

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On a cold, windy Valentine’s Day night in St. Louis, more than one hundred people gathered for a fundraising concert, hosted by SoFar Sounds, in the Sinquefeld Room in support of Overground Railroad to Literacy.

In stark contrast to most concerts, Sofar Sounds’ events strive to produce an intimate, relaxed and refreshing environment. This atmosphere is fostered by a couple norms. One, there are no assigned seats, and everyone sits on the floor, at least at the start. Two, while using social media to support the artists and the event is encouraged, no cellphones are allowed above the shoulder.

What really makes SoFar Sounds unique is that they do not organize concerts in the traditional sense. While anyone can apply to host a concert in a small setting, it is never revealed before a show who is playing. Although, the shows usually consist of three diverse acts with no headliner.

Additionally, the tickets are not sold with any sort of Ticketmaster or Stubhub insurance or guarantee. Just as hosts must apply, so must concertgoers up until five days until the event, and the tickets are distributed based on a lottery. This certainly adds a capricious and mysterious element to Sofar’s concerts that is sometimes missing from the overpriced and overproduced mega-shows held in larger venues.

The SoFar concert in DuBourg Hall featured three crescendoing St. Louis-born acts. The first was Joanna Serenko, a 17-year-old singer from Kirkwood high school with an amazingly soulful voice that was nicely complemented by her steady and articulate guitar accompanist. After Serenko, hip-hop group Mc Tres performed a terrific set of tunes. Many of them, like “Somehow Someway,” were full of meaningful social commentary and stirring lyrics, as well as a strong backing DJ, keyboard and guitar. The night ended with HOUNDS, a psychedelic rock trio that played a handful of galloping Western tracks that would have made Ennio Morricone proud. Their music alternated between passionate slow ballads and rock jams.

This Valentine’s Day gig was about much more than just the music though. In the words of junior Delanie Muenchen, president of Overground, it is “a tutoring and mentoring organization with the goals of decreasing the literacy gap in the city of St. Louis, dismantling the school-to-prison pipeline, and breaking the ‘SLU bubble.’” All profits from the concert will fund Overground’s after-school programs that go from 3-5 p.m., the most critical hours of the day for kids with whom they work. Currently, Overground serves Ashlendale, Walbridge, LaSalle Middle, and Farragut Elementaries, as well as Vashon High School.

Overground hopes to do more events with SoFar Sounds, but it already has other events planned for this semester to raise awareness of social and educational issues in St. Louis. These include the Norm White Lecture Series, which honors the late co-founder of Overground Norm White, and an additional showing of the documentary For Ahkeem, which focuses on a girl who grew up in St. Louis and experienced the school-to-prison pipeline first hand.

If the DuBourg concert was any indication of what a typical SoFar Sounds concert is like, then they are highly recommendable for fans of a wide variety of music and want to experience a different show than what is typical at the Pageant, Enterprise, or even the neighborhood bar.