A hush fell over the back alley courtyard in the heart of Over-The-Rhine as two performers stepped up to their microphones. With Fender Mustangs lit by the evening sun and lights strung from balconies, Christian Gough and Claire Muenchen of Moonbeau began a stipped-down set for Cincinnati’s third Sofar Sounds show.
Sofar stands for "Songs From a Room" and brings artists to exclusive and intimate performance spaces like this one, hosted in the back alley of Frameri on Vine Street. True to the show’s intention, not a sound came from the crowd of about 40, most of whom sat cross-legged on blankets right in front of the pair.
It's a testament to good music when it can be deconstructed to only its essential parts and still move an audience the way Moonbeau's did. It was Claire's first time taking up a guitar in front of an audience in over a year, and the intimacy of this raw performance was exactly what Sofar intended to capture.
As the audience sipped beer brought from home, Moonbeau handed the space over to singer-songwriter Lindsley. Her homey, casual style drew the ear in and her lyrical mastery rewarded close attention. Her simple Fleetwood Mac cover had the whole crowd singing “I wanna be with you everywhere,” and by the end she was cheered on by people listening from the street.
But it wasn't all stripped down and quiet. Sylmar brought their funky wah-powered sound to back up Audley's inspired flow and had people up and grooving. This collaboration, debuting here at Sofar, will culminate at Ubahn on September 9th. Folks sang along, and even at the end of their set, the audience wouldn’t let them go without an encore.
Sofar has been in business since 2010 in cities all around the world, but is a new and valuable addition to Cincinnati’s music network. Call it a guerilla concert series: performances take place in volunteered locations kept secret until the day before. The audience is selected based on a drawing, keeping it random, fair, and exclusive: the show is just as much for the performer as it is for the guests. You can apply online to attend the next event; if you’re selected, you can buy three tickets for you and a couple friends for $15 each.
The next two Sofar Cincinnati shows are September 20th and October 19th. Sylmar will be returning for the September date along with Chicago-based hip hop artist and activist Malcom London for a special Amnesty International benefit supporting refugees and displaced people around the world. The artists performing in October are still being kept under wraps, but you can go online to sofarsounds.com/cincinnati to apply for tickets for either of these shows.