SOFAR LA - JANUARY 8, 2017 - A BACKYARD IN SILVERLAKE
1 - FLAVIA
2 - Luke Wade
3 - Skin & Bones
It was a Sunday morning and I walked up to a non-descript house on a non-descript palm tree-lined street in Silverlake. A small sign in front of a non-descript house was flanked by two people staring at a phone - the tell-tale sign of a Sofar show. After giving our names, we walked into an immaculate backyard. It was three story terraced garden backstopped by a beautiful Spanish revival home; outside, with a nice breeze and the sunshine coming down - it was a perfect LA day.
Parisa Mahdad has been covering the NYC shows, but Sofar also has a sizeable following in Los Angeles. The LA crew puts on over 30 shows a month throughout the sprawling city-scape that is LA. Sometimes it’s Monday nights in Santa Monica others it’s Wednesday in Hollywood with venues ranging from huge lofts to post-close yoga studios.
My favorite part of Sofar is the grab-bag of experiences I’ve had here. Since I’ve been back in LA, I’ve gone to about twelve shows and every time it’s a different experience. I’ve seen bands I’ve loved, I’ve seen bands that actively inspired melancholy, but as far as grab-bag experiences go, this one was a diamond in the rough. Rounding out the beautiful Sunday afternoon was FLAVIA, Luke Wilson and Skin & Bones.
Buy Tickets: https://www.sofarsounds.com/la
1 - FLAVIA
The first act was a solo show. FLAVIA is an LA electro-pop artist that -self-described- employs elements of dark pop and futuristic R&B. I’m still not sure what dark pop and futuristic R&B are, but I knew I loved it when she started singing. She stood in front of the crowd with a single glowing drumstick and a KORG keyboard. A swift tap on the drum pad and she started a stripped down beat.
The melody was minimal with melodic synth lines carried by a steady, syncopated and dancey beat. FLAVIA has a voice that feels bright, yet luxurious and you almost feel guilty about the lush decadence. In her songs, she explores the mania of desire with her almost-smoky tone and enrapturing performance that catches you and draws you like a siren to the rocks. Suffice it to say, FLAVIA was an enrapturing performer. Her four-song set passed quickly and I remember looking around seeing others in the crowd share my sense of dazed surrealism as we were pulled out of a beautiful daydream that ended a little too early.
FLAVIA played a number of songs from her new EP “Embers” including Chemical Reaction, Fortress and No Gravity. These songs, like the rest of her album rely heavily on her vocal talents (she does not disappoint). Along with producer Ethan Allen (who’s worked with acts like Ben Harper), she’s crafted some very solid pop songs that are definitely worth your time. Her EP isn’t on Spotify, but she has some great videos up on Youtube and a single out on Bandcamp. In my humble opinion, she’s best enjoyed at a live show.
Her next set will be at the Bootleg Theater on February 12th. Check it out.
2 - Luke Wade
source: luke wade, facebook
Luke Wade followed FLAVIA. Luke was one of the finalists on the Voice a while back and has since released a number of albums focusing heavily on his acoustic guitar and impressively dynamic vocal range. While generally backed by his band, No Civilians, he came to Sofar by himself - guitar in hand.
Like FLAVIA, Luke Wade has contagious pop songs, however, he explores a more soulful vein of music that was much brighter and a good shift from the dark-ish melodies of the last act. While FLAVIA’s songs delved into the psyche of longing and desire, Luke’s melodies framed stories of heartfelt love.
Wade has amazing vocal range and the ever so slight husk in his bright sound added a lot of dimensions to his music. He sampled from his new album Only Ghosts, mixing his soulful crooning with vocal acrobatics that drew cheers from the crowd. The stripped-down nature of his set at Sofar only served to highlight his impressive vocal talents while his range of songs showcased his ability to move comfortably through a number of different genres. I’ve included a video of an older Sofar set so you too can appreciate his talents.
3 - SKIN & BONES
source: sofar sounds
Skin & Bones closed down the afternoon with another amazing set. If you haven’t seen them before, they mix the bright acoustic sound and deeply rich vocals of Taylor Borsuk with the powerful electric violin stylings of Peter Blackwelder.
The duo focused on songs featured on their 2016 E.P. Ghosts in this Town. Borsuk’s huskily rich vocals weave stories of longing as Blackwelder’s intimate violin-work adds a tint of nostalgic Americana with every pull. Skin & Bones proves my theory that there are very few things in life that can’t be made better by a great violin melody. The duo’s four song set ranged from works with a heavy sense of folk Americana to more blusey vibes focusing on acoustic slide-guitar playing.
My favorite performance from their set was “Soul Song.” While most performances at Sofar don’t really transfer to albums, you can catch this tune on Spotify in all its live glory from Skin & Bones’s set with Jam in the Van from 2016. Soul Song starts with a violin melody that sonically captures a very universal sense of yearning as parlayed through the story of a woman stuck in the doldrums of daily life longing for more. Borsuk calls out to the unfulfilled and tells her that “[he’ll] make it alright.” To me, it’s a timely song about living with what you have and finding the joys in the life around you- not what you think you need.
Skin & Bones are powerful storytellers who do well capturing the zeitgeist of the modern era while framed by evident musical talent.