The crowd is hushed, attentively seated on the floor. In cities from Dubai, United Arab Emirates, to Barcelona, Spain, and now Cleveland, Sofar Sounds' one-night-only secret shows are reconnecting audiences with the intimacy of live music. Those hoping to make it to the show must register for the possibility of getting a golden ticket. For the lucky chosen ones, an email arrives a day before unveiling the location. Shrouded in mystery, no attendees know the details of who's playing until they arrive. "The evening is all about discovery," says Ben Gage, who played Sofar Sounds' one-year anniversary show with his Akron Americana band the Gage Brothers. Ahead of the Feb. 13 show, Gage sets the stage for us.
A lot of times they'll take you to places you never knew existed. The first thing I like to do is explore every corner. We hadn't been to LeanDog [a tech company that shares a 120-year-old boat on Lake Erie with Arras-Keathley Advertising] until Sofar.
Being on the water with Cleveland as a backdrop was so unique that we ended up choosing it for our own album release show.
They're always in a setting where there's nothing to distract. You get to watch music in a really stripped down environment where everyone is hanging on to every single sound and every single moment. When I saw Jared Mahone from Columbus play, he was able to introduce each song and tell the story behind it. I've taken that with me when I perform today.
Seeing the audience respect the bands, it was hard not to reciprocate that as a performer. When someone's really getting into the show, it makes you give your absolute best. They're paying attention and they deserve it.