As fun as concerts are, what with the staggering probability of being awkwardly stepped on, bumped into, or deafened by sheer passion and jagged distortion, there’s a tamer, I’m-getting-older part of me that believes live music is for the living room – preferably low-ceilinged, warm-hued, carpet-covered, and friend-filled. My reasons? 1. Music is intimate and personal, and sitting down is great. 2. Nice carpets always enhance the sound and hipster factor of a good tune. 3. You leave with some voice left. These sound like truisms. To me, living rooms and music make for an inseparable dyad.

This is why when I heard of Sofar, an acronym for SOngs From A Room (ya, they kind of cheated), my heart skipped a beat and I fell daintily onto my recently-vacuumed Persian carpet. Sofar organizes secret musical performances across over 80 cities, all of which take place in semi-rando living rooms I hope are properly vetted prior. You know, for carpets. And if there’s anything music and living room lovers enjoy more than melodies and tapestries, it might very well be secrecies. Sofar is three for three.

So naturally Sound of Boston (yours truly) thought it’d partner with them to co-organize an event in JP (the plain, not the licks). The recipe was simple: three superb (and local!) acts, one carpet-filled house, bunches of expensive sound equipment, and dozens of pals, strangers, future-pals, bearded men, and musicphiles. Presto! A living room to remember.

The first act was Ash & The Grave Giant, a solo endeavor by guitarist and multi-instrumentalist Alec Alabado of The Western Den– but also of himself. He performed a set of spine-chilling, goose-pimpling songs inspired by imaginative parables just morbid enough to put the Brothers Grimm to shame. There was the girl who was devoured by the Swamp King. There was the rotting flesh of beggars lost down a wishing well. There were hapless souls destined to be forgotten. But accompanying these haunting stories were chords, sewn together beautifully, fully charged with a spirit as alive as those beggars were dead. Or, as fiery as the Swamp Monster was an ugly mustard-brown color. (As I pictured it). Alabado’s set glistened with musicianship, creativity, and nightmares that had underlying themes. Reminder: next time, bring candles and a pentagram. 

Alabado was followed by I/O, a Boston based “post-rock” band playing their first ever acoustic set. It boiled down to three dudes (two on acoustic guitars, a third on an abbreviated drum set) playing interweaving riffs and rhythms that at once sounded entrancingly elaborate and logically simple. They performed like mostly-rehearsed clockwork and crafted a meditative sound – one that, if manifested in a body, might have a short attention span. Parts and sections shifted until they found sweet spots, in which they dwelled for but a few moments.

The final band, Otter, formerly known as General George Washing Machine, Stone Cold Jane Austen, and a slew of other embarrassing names, performed last, as is typical of final bands. Their instrumentation border typical (guitar, bass, keyboard, drums) but their sound rang like genres in harmony. Some funk, some party rock, some fusion, some R&B, smooth bass lines, nonchalant guitar flares, sparse but driving snare, ethereal funk keyboard. The whole operation required packing a lot of energy and volume into a minimal level of loudness. This was done skillfully, especially considering their instrumentation is what teens use to destroy garages. Otter was very well rehearsed and played songs that could have been simple, but that definitely were not. Graceful nuances and specified licks and hits littered their performance – and all the while they were able to maintain their upperclass jam band vibe. Also of note: the guitarist looks like your high school physics teacher.

And with that the music ended. But the night – and the living room – lingered on. Newfound friends chatted, musicians defended their favorite chords, and photographers compared their snaps of the backs of people’s heads.

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