At the cap of a dead-end street, surrounded by fluttering tarps and steel beams, the Zinc Apartment Complex in Cambridge would leave you wondering if you were, indeed, in the right place. Guests, assured they were at the right address, entered a small recreation room towards the back of the hotel-like monolith, sat on the shag rug, and experienced music in its purest form.
Strangers smiled nervously and shook hands, introduced themselves to one another as they nibbled on pizza, and settled into the warm, but sterile room. It felt like a family reunion for family that had never met before. Sofar Sounds hosts “mystery” shows, where the venue and lineup aren’t released until the day before and the day of, respectively. The lineup hung before everyone, taped to the walls. They almost didn’t notice when someone gripped the mic and tapped it awake.
Big Big Buildings – Somerville’s Adam McElreath – took his place on the shag, his guitar draped over his lanky body, drooping more heavily than his eyelids. A sleepy, throaty voice emerged, his hands visibly shaking as he plucked through his set. Bright guitar lines sounded at times disjointed with his rough vocals, but the lyrics kept the entire project feather-light.
“Amateur Psychologist” was one of the strongest tracks, with languid, explorative lyrics that parsed the inner workings of our idiosyncrasies and tendencies as humans to try to analyze our surroundings. “Why won’t your logical flowers grow?” McElreath sang, glancing around the room as if asking the audience. Nerves aside, the music was florid and dynamic, though seemingly lacking at times. (A listen to his recordings proves this, as the tracks are lush with electronically generated sounds that allow the songs to blossom in full form.)
Sara Kendall followed, haunting the room with her ephemeral voice. Laden in dark lipstick behind her keyboard, Kendall, a Berklee alum, almost outmatched her voice with her keyboard playing. Her eerie, beautifully simple melodies with catchy, poetic lyrics pulled hard at the heartstrings. Creating images of broken homes and broken loves, Kendall’s voice dominated the space, though her physical presence seemed fragile. She shared some old tracks and a few to look forward to in recorded form.
About halfway through her set, Kendall announced to the crowd that she’d be playing a cover. “I’m a huge Pink Floyd fan,” she said, smiling, as the audience began guessing which song she’d decided to tackle. “So, so you think you can tell/ heaven from hell,” she began, playing a twinkling melody on the keyboard. Her cover of “Wish You Were Here” was sweet and respectful to the original, giving it new life without a full band to back it up.
Gene Shinozaki of Beatbox House closed the show, with no one in the sold out crowd quite sure what to expect. Taking the concept of the voice as an instrument to an entirely new level, Shinozaki stole the show. Buzzing, clicking, and singing on top of it all, his beatboxing was more than just a collection of sounds – he plowed through several songs, complete with lyrics, melody, and concept.
With a sound similar to house music, heavy bass and drops were incorporated throughout. Far beyond “boots and cats,” Shinozaki proved that beatboxing is a true artform in and of itself. His body moved with the sounds, his hands making gestures to accompany the mood of the song. This movement added to his “flow,” making his performance much more dynamic and captivating.
Throughout the entire show, not one cell phone screen dominated and no whispers distracted from the performance. It was a meeting of the minds, between creator and enjoyer, the way every Sofar show is– and the way music should be.
- Variety of genres
- Performances dynamic and impassioned
- Unique venue
- Performers a little stiff at times
- Organization was lacking at times