SOUNDS

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An intimate gig in a random location.

Sounds like another Hoxton-inspired event idea which has appeared out of a hipster-haze, right?

Wrong.

After a couple of years of not being able to get tickets, not being able to make it when I eventually did get tickets and then sometimes forgetting it was even a thing, I finally managed to make time for Sofar last night. Having been to these types of events before, I sort of knew what to expect and I was looking forward to popping my Sofar cherry. So after a short bus ride after filling my belly with pasta, I found myself in a tiny meeting room in an office block, with a view of Tower Bridge, listening to three live performances with a few tins of gin bought from the nearby Tesco. We had no chairs, no covers, no frills or spills, just great music, precious alcohol and good company.

I don’t want to say too much about the night because it seems to me that these events are best enjoyed when taken at face value. But what I will say is that Sofar seems to attract nice people. From the volunteers who run the events, to the tentative audience members with real-life manners, my evening was made complete just by being surrounded by like-minded individuals who didn’t settle for Netflix and a chinese on a Wednesday night. Instead, they went on a hunt for something a little more interesting. And boy did they find it. I was lucky enough to enjoy 3 acts who were so fucking talented it hurt. We had a soloist who described his music as ‘soul inspired pop’, a synthy trio from Suffolk with a penchant for blue hair and a four man band who played ALL the instruments.

You can see past performances here if you like, just to get a taster of what Sofar is all about, but I would recommend not clicking and just applying for tickets without knowing too much about what’s in store for you. Just don’t expect to find your normal gig experience.

Sofar is not for the socially awkward, it is not for those who require comfy seating and it is especially not for those of you who don’t appreciate excellent music and good company.

Buy your tickets here. It’s the world’s best kept secret. For now, anyway.

THE CARNIVAL

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A melting pot of good people, excellent food and dancing. A festival for the soul as well as for the feet and friends. An institution for Londoners. A beacon for lovers, creatures of the capital and their plus ones. A party where no one is invited but everyone feels welcome. Two days of glitter, sequins and feathers. Hours of beats, rhythm, bass.

As a child growing up in West London, I understood Carnival better than I understood school. Sipping on juice whilst lazing in my pram as the sun went down, I would watch the women in ‘bikinis’ and party people falling over with a smile on my face. I didn’t understand it, but I knew that I liked it. My parents must have known then, as I clapped my hands wildly and danced on dad’s shoulders, that I would continue to head to Notting Hill for years to come. Ending up at school in West London meant that it was a given that me and my friends would stroll right into the thick of it. Spending time in Tavistock Gardens, getting high off the fumes of other people’s spliff and blissfully living life as a teen without laughing gas; Carnival was just about being there, seeing it and making sure that we all got out alive.

My twenties, like most things, is where I’ve learnt how to really ‘do’ carnival. A rucksack, pre-mixed booze and a whole load of glitter. A group of friends to party with and a clear plan as to where we’re headed. A strict rule never to try and meet up with friends in a crowd. In fact, just a rule never to try and meet up with anyone at any point between Portobello and Westbourne Grove between the hours of 12 and 6. It won’t happen and you’ll just waste valuable – and incredibly precious – Carnival time trying to do so. Remember, this only happens once a year. Don’t waste it.

People, of course, like to knock carnival. And rightly so it may seem: people get shot. Others get stabbed. Men and women are searched because of the colour of their skin as opposed to what’s in their pockets. Yes, people pee in peculiar places and you get the odd bloke who’s overdone it for the tenth year in a row. But what about the good stuff? The fun, the dancing and the chance to enjoy what London has become? I think that’s what’s important here, not the few who try to ruin it or stamp their mark on the west. 

I could have been deterred from ever going to carnival again when, in 2007, I got stuck in the middle of a riot. Someone opened fire. Police stampeded and revellers scrambled. I ducked off down a side road towards the back streets I knew so well until everything had calmed down. Then I got the hell out of there. That was the year I realised that the advice to leave before it gets dark is, in fact, incredibly valuable. It didn’t stop me returning though and it didn’t make my mum think twice about handing me a tenner for Red Stripe and waving me off the following year because, she knows as well as I do, that the good far outweighs the bad on this weekend.

Over the years, carnival has provided me with a stream of memories. Each one as colourful as the next. I won’t bore you with the details of them because, if you’ve been, you know the drill. And if you haven’t, then I don’t want to ruin it for you. What I will say is that if it ceased to exist, I would definitely be at least 70% less happy come August bank holiday.

So, tonight, much the same as every year, I’ll get butterflies as the sound of rehearsals and the thick stench of spices fill the streets of West London in preparation for the celebrations to come. This is the biggest weekend of the year in my city and I won’t have a bad word said about it. 

My brother says it’s better than Christmas. And he L O V E S Christmas. So if you haven’t been, join us. If you have, then I’ll hopefully see you on the dance floor. Or should I say, the corner of All Saints Road?

Stay safe and have a good one.

Happy Bank Holiday.