The rain was constant, the annoying type that establishes a presence with its ongoing pitter-patter. After emerging out of the metro, I spotted a mirage of instruments being carried by hooded individuals filing one behind the other into a narrow doorway. Anxious to get out of the rain, I quickly joined the parade and accompanied these strangers and their drums up the staircase. Just as I was rounding the second flight of stairs (progressively getting more nervous that I was approaching a “point of no return,”) I saw a door opened to a vibrant apartment, filled with music enthusiasts and signs for 1euro beer. Anxiety subsided and was replaced with excitement for my first Sofar show, and the first ever in Barcelona.
It was a full house. Amigos, lovers, groupies and strangers all gathered in a characteristically Barcelona apartment with its tall ceilings. There was cheap beer, instruments being tuned and lots of smoke looming overhead. It felt like the intimate, legendary rock-n-roll concert that is covered years later by a journalist from Rolling Stone.
Our introduction to the first band was a slow-clap in unison, which contributed to the intimate feel of the night. Then the beautiful, melodic folk-sound silenced the audience and Olivemoon took over.
Olivemoon is an alternative folk-rock group assembled of Spaniards and Swedes that got started in Barcelona in 2007. Marc Navarro’s steady vocals are accented by an array of sounds from many different instruments. Olivemoon’s lyrics are in English - this offers the listener a poetic journey, but the accompanied instrumentals represent another journey even more lyrical. Olivemoon’s, “The Cliff” begins slowly like a train steadily moving forward with Navarro’s soulful voice at the lead. The drums pick up, and the instrumentals transition into the storyteller. Olivemoon is the perfect combination of solidity and experimentation, and this is a recipe for a beautiful musical adventure.
After a five-minute break, the audience was introduced to the second band of the night: La Sentina. La Sentina is a small band on the Indian Runners record label with sincere lead vocals, instrumentals and Catalan lyrics.
Catalan is a beautiful spoken language and even better when put to music. “Plàstic,” the third song by La Sentina, has a powerfully instrumental refrain that gives the piece a roller coaster feeling.
For someone who cannot speak Catalan, I felt like I understood the song’s meaning perfectly. La Sentina was the perfect first-introduction to Catalan music.
The set-up of the third group was interesting to watch unfold. There was a diverse range of instruments, including harmonium, multiple keyboards, autoharp, marxophone – the list goes on!
Berlinst is a “band that dreams about music and makes music about dreams.” Just as diverse as its instruments are the nationalities represented in this group. Berlinst has six members from Poland, Italy, Spain and Chile. Their sound is breathtaking, especially the vocals of Barcelona’s Gemma Gamarra.
Berlinist has an echoing sound comparable to that of Sigur Ros, and violinist Natalia Bednarczyk strikes a lasting impression. During all four songs, the audience was completely entranced; a pin-drop could be heard throughout their entire 20-minute set. Berlinist created magic.
The final performance came from Mates Mates, five Catalan boys that are re-inventing the meaning of “jamming out.” Their set began with a beautiful cover of Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash’s, “Girl from the North Country.”
It was the calm before the storm, because the rest of the set was an energetic ending fit for a rock-n- roll concert. Playing to their strengths, these boys got the crowd going and engaged in the music – dancing rambunctiously around the room with guitars and trumpets in hand into the smiley-eyed audience.
Mates Mates has the sound of an eighties garage band with a big personality. They appropriately ended a night (which began with slow clapping) with foot-stomping excitement.
The first Sofar show in Barcelona was not only memorable for the 75-person, hand-picked audience and musicians, but for Barcelona as well. The evening showcased local talent and allowed a new city to join in on an international music movement. Sofar, without a doubt, has a bright future in Barcelona.
Photos by Yulia Syresenkova and Mary Elizabeth
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