Secret Underground Music Performances in the West Loop and Across the City

By Elisa Shoenberger, Staff Writer

Imagine a secret underground music show at a beauty salon or someone’s rooftop apartment. That’s Sofar Sounds. Getting its name from “Songs From a Room,” Sofar aims to create intimate musical experiences for its guests. 

“We live in the age of distraction,” Stephanie Albano, Chicago Director of Sofar Sounds, explains. Sofar aims to “get back to the connection and the magic” of live music, she says. 

Sofar Sounds first began in 2009 in London when its founders had a disappointing concert experience because there were too many distractions taking place. Founder Rafe Offer decided to bring people over to his place and invited musician Dave Alexander to perform. From that, more concerts came and ten years later, Sofar Sounds is in 438 cities around the world.

Chicago began hosting shows for the past five years with one to two shows a month. Now, there can be up to 50 shows a month. To attend an event, people have to choose a location in the city without any knowledge of where the venue is. They have to apply for a ticket, which is more like making a reservation, and will receive notice if it was accepted. 

If they are accepted, they can purchase $16 tickets. The day before the show,  they will receive notification of the address, often a non-traditional venue like the top floor of the Willis Tower or the backroom of a closed restaurant. Guests won’t know the musicians until they arrive at the venue. Each event has three different musicians from diverse genres; some are local while some tour with Sofar Sounds.

“I just like the consistency of the energy of people who attend and the guarantee that people are going to listen,” The Nunnery, a Minneapolis musician who played at a recent West Loop event. 

“Since Sofar shows are held in a variety of spaces across the city, this encourages people to explore new neighborhoods and venture out of their comfort zone,” Albano explains, “Beyond rediscovering the magic of live music experiences, we’re ultimately trying to create a space in society where people can come together in one safe space.”

At a recent West Loop show, Worth Knight, who has attended 44 Sofar Sounds, explains, “I got tired of going to big venues to spend an hour going in, an hour going out. This is much more intimate. I love to support young artists and to hear the new poets tell their stories.”

Sofar Sounds hosts events almost every evening throughout the city. Check out their online schedule to find a performance near your neighborhood.

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