“It’s been a while since I played in a living room,” Julien Baker said as she held an acoustic guitar. “I spent the first half of my career in living rooms. This feels good.”
String lights sprinkled the walls of a living room in the West Loop last Wednesday. Wine bottles littered counter space. And 8 x 11 paper sheets taped to doors and walls led people past a pub, up a flight of stairs, and down a hallway. An apartment became a venue, at least for until Sofar Sounds deconstructed tore down their makeshift concert room.
Sofar (“Songs from a room”) Sounds is an international business that coordinates and plans secret shows across the world, often in people’s living or workspaces. They find volunteer hosts and gather artist submissions to plan concerts. And they currently hold concerts in 375 cities throughout the world.
This past Wednesday, the global company hosted a special benefit in partnership with Amnesty International called Give a Home. They hosted over 300 shows in 200 cities and 60 countries in support of, and solidarity with, refugees. These benefit concerts featured 1,000 musicians, including Mumford and Sons, Local Natives, The National, and more — and 8 of these shows were in Chicago.
Those are a lot of numbers, but the important thing to note is that all of those funds from the benefit goes to Amnesty International — which, as several musicians at this concert mentioned, is crucially important, especially after the recent earthquakes in Mexico City and five Atlantic hurricanes in the past 30 days.
Locals Moonrise Nation opened the evening with their dreamy folk rock, even featuring a sonorous cello and violin in between their tightly-executed three-piece harmonies. The soulful singer and percussionist Lester Rey then led his trio in an entrancing set that fused together Chicago blues, traditional Puerto Rican music, and the charisma, energy, and storytelling form of hip-hop.
The young singer-songwriter Julien Baker writes about pain and struggle with a guitar, so it’s no surprise that any of her shows would make someone feel vulnerable or the space more intimate. Sofar Sounds only magnified the intensity, especially when the entire room sang along to her defiant “Rejoice”.
Music brings people together, Baker noted in between songs. And even songs from a room can help millions in need.