Leo Liebeskind, the front man of rock and roll band Lovechild, breathed on his fingers to heat them up. “We hope everyone’s warm enough,” he told the audience from center stage, shouldering his guitar with a star-spangled strap. “We sort of are.”
The audience laughed, their coats and scarves still on.
On Saturday’s cold and rainy night, Lovechild and two other musical acts serenaded around 100 guests at the Waterfront Museum, a covered barge anchored at Red Hook’s Pier 44. For braving the weather, the crowd was rewarded with an intimate evening of music produced by Sofar Sounds.
Sofar is now a global movement spanning 350 cities that launched in London in 2009 as an alternative to overcrowded, impersonal concerts played to disengaged audiences. Short for “songs from a room,” Sofar’s indie pop-up concerts notify guests of the secret venue only within a day of the show. Though Sofar events in New York City occur weekly, the Waterfront Museum became the concert series’ first Red Hook venue.
The historic barge’s unconventional setup provided DIY charm – speakers flanked the stage atop wooden barrels. Guests nursed slightly spiked kombucha while enjoying the music in appreciative silence and observing Sofar’s guidelines: no talking or texting during the show. Some people grooved to the indie tunes while the boat itself swayed from waves.
The night opened with NYC-based Lovechild, a Sofar veteran band. During their closing number, “Ain’t Nothing Worse,” laughs erupted when the song revealed itself as a raucous anthem about running out of marijuana.
Asaran Earth Trio
Next came Asaran Earth Trio with intricate folk harmonies. Hailing from Hungary, Croatia, and Brazil, the group blends different cultures’ rhythms into original arrangements. The audience collaborated on a joyful Brazilian song by playing musical shakers hand-made by performer Ann Boccato’s mother.
Brandy Cerne, a New York City-based assistant director for Sofar and emcee for the show, emphasized the barge’s one-of-a-kind venue. “Sofar is all about putting on shows in unexpected locations, and what’s more unexpected than a historic boat docked in a remote corner of Red Hook with a view of the Statue of Liberty?”
Between acts, Cerne encouraged the audience to try an icebreaker: meet your neighbor and think up a boat-based band name together. “All Hands On Deck” and “The Screaming Sirens” were a couple audience favorites.
Friends had recommended Sofar to first-timer Matt Anchin, a chief communications officer for consumer reports. “It’s a nice, eclectic mix of musicians I ordinarily wouldn’t be exposed to,” he said.
Weiru Lay, a freelance designer, came to support her music teacher who plays for one of the bands. “Pretty unique,” Lay called the concert. “The boat was shaking!”
Concert host David Sharps, the Waterfront Museum’s live-in owner, learned about the concert series through his daughter Sophie – a Sofar fan.
“The surprise aspect of the guests not knowing exactly where the show was until the day of and myself not knowing what music we’d be listening to made it especially unique,” Sharps reflected in an email to the Star-Revue.
By the evening’s final act, the crowd was warm and animated. Soul singer Crystal Monee Hall and her band brought down the house with original songs on romance, social justice, and self-love.
Hall asked the audience to join her in a moment of togetherness. “Every time I’m in a room, I feel like I have this many more family members,” said Hall, gesturing toward the audience. “We’ve hunkered down together; we’ve frozen together…It’s been a blast.”
Learn more about hosting, performing, or attending a Sofar Sounds concert online at www.sofarsounds.com.