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Intimate secret shows might just be the most 'Austin' way to see live music in town

R&B pop artist Mélat was first onstage at Aviator Nation. (Laura Figi/Austonia)

When you sign up for one of Sofar Studios’ secret shows, there’s a surprise around every corner from buying the ticket to walking out of the venue.

A musical community putting on intimate live concerts in 325 cities and counting across the world, Sofar Studios puts on shows with unannounced artists with the goal of connecting locals to up-and-coming musicians.

Austonia attended a Sofar show that was in partnership with Bumble at Aviator Nation, 1325 S. Congress Ave., featuring performances from Mélat, Tony22 and Clarence James on April 14.

How a Sofar Sounds show works

Ticketholders are told only the general area of where the show will take place when they purchase their slot before being told the venue 36 hours before the show begins. Each of the three local artists, unknown by the audience until they take the stage, is given a 30-minute set to perform at a unique venue in front of anywhere from a cozy 50-200 guests.

Regional artist booking manager Esther Calloway, a Texan who books for Austin, Dallas, Houston and Colorado, said about half of the musicians do repeat shows. Calloway said she books artists based on their musicality and how Sofar can help them at any point in their career.

“It's really important that we help cultivate careers—we have different opportunities for them to elevate within the Sofar platform,” Calloway said. “We have been able to really connect with artists that we really love, that we are seeing in a local market that's evolving and growing.”

Depending on the venue you end up in, you may sit on picnic blankets or stand up and dance, bring your own booze or snacks, or end up with some free merch at the end of it all.

As for the artists...

Her name is pronounced May-lah-t. (Laura Figi/Austonia)

Tony22's ukulele gives him a gentle, unconventional sound. (Laura Figi/Austonia)

Clarence James' vocals are like a dream. (Laura Figi/Austonia)

  • Dreamy R&B pop singer Mélat’s music is all about her strong yet angelic vocals, which she demonstrated by opening with a cover of “Killing Me Softly With His Song,” by the Fugees and Lauryn Hill. Our favorite original songs were “The Lesson” and “The Now.”
  • Next on stage was Tony22, an electric ukulele strummer whose newest album “222,” follows relatable tales of love, life and mental health. The track “Here and Now” stuck out most to us.
  • The final act of the night, Clarence James made the most memorable entrance when his bassist arrived late during the first song and jumped on stage to join. James’ impressive vocal range in “I’m Melting,” and effortless skills on the guitar in “I Think It Might Be Hell” made us fans.

Each show is a new configuration of artists. In addition to the three above artists, locals like Mama Duke, Sheridan Reed and Nick Swift are common on the lineup. Read more info about the shows here.


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