Columbus, OH

Sofar Sounds Columbus transforms everyday spaces into unique live-music venues for public

The Lantern
NyQuinn performs at Sofar Sounds Columbus, a collectiove of intimate live music performances hosted in residences, small businesses, art galleries and more. Credit: Courtesy of Melissa Barrett

Sofar Sounds’ creator, Rafe Offer, attended a live shown in downtown London and noticed how performers had to play more aggressively and louder to be heard over the crowds at the bars. From then, Offer had the idea to relocate the performance from a typical concert environment to an intimate show in a nearby condo.

In 2009, Offer hosted the first Sofar Sounds show to a crowd of about 15 people, Terry Tertiary, Sofar Columbus city lead, said. In the 14 years since, Sofar Sounds rippled outward from London to over 400 cities worldwide — including Columbus — to provide intimate shows in venues hosted by everyday people. The twist is, the performer is always kept a secret.

“Sofar Sounds is a complete secret show. When you purchase a ticket, you’ll know the date, time and neighborhood,” Tertiary said. “You’ll know if it’s BYOB or if there is alcohol for sale, and you’ll know if there is a theme for the event. Thirty-six hours before the show, we reveal the venue. The performers are kept a secret until you show up.”

Sofar Columbus began in 2016 but halted shows in 2018 due to slow sales. After getting involved as a performer for Sofar Sounds Chicago in 2021, Columbus local Tertiary said he wanted to revive the collective in Ohio and reached out to previous Sofar Columbus crew members for help.

“Everyone was like, ‘You’re taking it over? Yeah, here you go. I’m going to help you as much as I can,’” Tertiary said. “I think that’s what really empowered me to really push forward after it closed.”

In 2022, Tertiary said he revamped Sofar Columbus and now hosts about three shows per month. Show hosts include residents with unique apartments or homes as well as bars, art galleries and other local businesses.

Melissa Barrett, Sofar Columbus’ lead photographer, said venues are an essential component of the overall experience, and they try to use a new space each month. According to Sofar Sounds’ website , venues can fill out a form found on its website to “tell us where your space is located,” and then if chosen as a good fit, Sofar Sounds will offer dates to host the show. The website did not provide details on what Sofar Sounds looks for.

“We’ve been in carriage houses, restaurants and so many different spaces,” Barrett said. “It’s been great and a challenge. It’s been a great learning experience to expand my photography skills for sure.”

Tertiary said one of their strongest collaborators is The Mansion 731, a Victorian mansion turned art gallery in the Olde Towne East neighborhood. He said audience members are able to view fine art and photography while listening to quality musicians.

Artists are able to apply on Sofar Sounds’ website by providing live performance videos, sharing social media accounts and filling out an “optional demographic survey,” according to its website. Applications take up to eight weeks to review, and once accepted, artists can provide availability for locations. The website did not provide details on what Sofar Sounds looks for.

Barrett said she has discovered local performers that she has now become a fan of through her time at Sofar, including Ebri Yahloe . Other artists Sofar Columbus has featured include The Castros , Jay Averee , A-Go-Go , The Fifth House Band , The OG Players , Lethal FX and more.

“We want bigger, bigger venues,” Barrett said. “We want more artists to have exposure. That means more venues where more people are able to come and enjoy the experience.”

Tertiary said Sofar Sounds encourages a variety of musical styles and genres. Sofar Sounds Columbus shows include Feb. 4, 14 and 24 and can be purchased through its website .

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