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When I headed south toward the river from Sangsu Station, I had little sense of what I was getting into. My only clue was that I’d been told it was going to be a “house party-slash-concert.” I stepped through the front gate of the venue, V-Mansion, a guesthouse and creative meeting space. As I walked past the grassy plot and patio out front, I found a living room where the sofas were pushed to the corners to make way for the cushions strewn around the floor for guests. If it hadn’t been for the modest setup of microphones and recording equipment, it wouldn’t have been obvious that there was a show happening soon. Guests continued to show up, carrying contributions that ranged from boxes of cookies and pastries to tubs of KFC chicken.
An understated set
Singer Kim Ji-soo walks in with his guitar and it’s no grand entrance. He carefully tiptoes through the haphazardly seated guests and sits himself down on a stool as the onlookers applaud. “This is the first time I’ve ever performed with my shoes off,” he says. The
shoeless audience chuckles in agreement. As he sings, he interacts and jokes with the 40 people there. Nobody texts or posts to Facebook; everybody listens to him, interacting with him. “This was probably the most romantic show I’ve ever done,” Kim said after his set. “It was the most nervous I’ve been in a while! But there was that feeling of just playing music for your friends. It was like, ‘Hey, listen to this one I’ve been working on.’ I wish I had more time because it was great.” Following the intermission, the next performer, Ha Heon-jin,
shares his music with the crowd. Once again, the environment allows for a more intimate concert experience, as Ha’s eccentric, deadpan demeanor results in awkwardly hilarious moments interspersed throughout his acoustic Korean blues set. “It blew my expectations of people here,” said
le Claireq, a French patron at the guesthouse who had come downstairs with her husband out of curiosity. “It’s our first time in Asia, and to find such a mix of culture like this was really great.”
London calling
The name Sofar first started as an acronym, which stood for “Sounds From a Room.” It was initiated in London by two Englishmen who wanted to enjoy a proper pub gig but kept finding that everything else happening at the bar was always louder than the actual music. The two men started hosting small shows at their house and they eventually grew into an international movement, with people seeking out low-key urban musical experiences. Sofar Sounds reached Seoul through a start-up company called Proteurment. Song Jun-ho, head of the company says, “The premise of Sofar Sounds fit well with the direction Proteurment is taking and we felt that Sofar Sounds could be an on- and offline platform for getting exposure for talented Korean musicians in our country as well as around the world.” “It was like a scene out of a movie … a lot of fun and very refreshing,” said Rhino, an underground rapper. “It’s nice to have the opportunity to really pay attention and listen to music I’m not used to.” University student Kim Da- hye agrees: “It was a little awkward at first, but the house party concept is unique and cozy.” Song admits the first few events were pulled off with a certain amount of trial and error. “Unlike in other countries, people here aren’t really accustomed to inviting people they don’t know to their home for a party. So finding a sufficient venue or creating that sort of atmosphere was difficult. But now we’re trying to put some more weight into it being a ‘party,’ like in picking out the right venue or creating an environment where people feel like they can hang out with people they haven’t met before.”

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