‘Too many concerts feel the same’

Kattis Bjork founded Stockholm's secret gig scene - Sofar - a year ago. The Local caught up with her as she prepared to celebrate the project's anniversary this weekend and revealed the concept will spread to other Swedish cities in 2015.

'Too many concerts feel the same'
Sofar hosts secret gigs in Swedish apartments. Photo: Sofar
Stockholm's secret gig scene is so secret we only just found out about it. How does it work?
You sign up to a newsletter and every month you get an email inviting you to a private, secret gig. You don't know where it is or who is playing until the date of the event. In Stockholm we have put on events in people's apartments and also in cosy and lovely art studios and other creative spaces.
How did you come up with the idea?
Sofar is a global movement launched in London about six years ago and we are now in more than 80 cities around the world. It's a not-for-profit community where people mostly play for free. I had been to gigs arranged in London and New York and I loved the concept.
When I moved back to Sweden after quite a few years of living abroad, I found it a bit difficult to socialize and meet new people. Then I went to a friend's birthday where a band was performing in their house and it reminded me of Sofar and what Stockholm was missing. So I decided to try and launch it here.
Stockholm has changed since I left. There is more of an international scene and I just think the city was ready for something like this.
Stockholm certainly has some stylish apartments, but aren't they a bit small for concerts?
Stockholm is different to London, Paris or New York where more people in their twenties live in shared houses or collectives. Here in Sweden we tend to live alone in little apartments and people were a bit scared of the idea at first. But we have held gigs in small spaces, with 45 people in just 45 square metres, so it is workable and yes we are famous for our interiors here.
Most of the bands play electronic music, so they need quite a lot of equipment but as long as we can get that in then it is all workable. We are putting on gigs once a month now.
Swedes are known for being very organized and rather shy. But your concept demands that they take quite a few risks, by arranging to watch a strange band in a strange location, surrounded by strangers. Why do you think you have been successful here?
I guess in a way people are quite regimented in Sweden but they are also very curious. I think people here are organized, so in one way it suits us perfectly to sign up to something in advance and queue in a line outside on the night. Our anniversary gig is a bit larger and so we are charging this time but it still sold out pretty quickly. 
Can you give us any clues about where the anniversary event is taking place this weekend?
All I can say is it is taking place in one of the most extravagant lounge rooms in Stockholm. We wanted a bigger venue so that there could be more of a party feel about it all and we are very excited. 
Doesn't that take you away from your roots? From small and intimate gigs? 
No, it will still feel personal and people will still have that mystery of not knowing where they are going until they are there. I think people have just got fed up of booking to see large acts in the same venues and so it will really appeal to those people. We are thinking of it as more of a mini festival but we will keep putting on small gigs in future. Too many concerts feel the same.
So what is next for Sofar?
We are launching our first gigs in Gothenburg in January 2015 and we are in touch with other cities too. So it is a busy time for us. We want to keep putting on small gigs that are cosy and have a lot of soul.

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What are the best concerts in Sweden this autumn?

Now that Sweden has lifted its audience restrictions for public events, The Local's Paul O'Mahony lists his recommendations for the best gigs to attend over the coming months.

Crowd at a music concert in Debaser, Stockholm
Crowds return to Stockholm venue Debaser after pandemic restrictions on events were lifted. Photo: Pontus Lundahl/TT

Sweden’s musicians, concert promoters and venue operators have struggled to varying degrees through the pandemic. One surefire way to help get them back on their feet is to give organisers and artists the financial reassurance they need by pre-booking concerts. 

Of course these recommendations only apply if you feel safe attending large events; remember that you should stay home and take a Covid-19 test if you experience any symptoms that could be linked to the virus, even if vaccinated. And make sure to check with organisers if there are any specific coronavirus requirements you need to be aware of. 

Coming up: top gigs in Sweden over the next few months 

As a regular gig-goer, live music is the one thing I’ve missed most over the past year and a half. So it is with some excitement (and, I’ll admit, a degree of trepidation) that I prepare to go see Norwegian band Pom Poko this Friday at Hus 7 in Stockholm. Their melodic art-punk album Cheater sparked the year into life on its release in January. They’re also playing Plan B in Malmö on Saturday night

Plan B is also the venue when Squid hit Sweden with a thrilling dose of post-punk on October 15th. Tickets remain available for the show at the time of writing (an absolute steal at 120 kronor), though that’s sadly not the case in Stockholm where their October 16th gig at Melodybox sold out a long time ago. (Although you can sign up to be added to a waiting list). 

Another artist well worth checking out in October is Gothenburg guitarist and singer Amanda Werne, better known as Slowgold. Her live shows are great and she is embarking on a Swedish tour on October 8th. 

Emma-Jean Thackray, one of the UK’s most interesting jazz artists, will be at Fasching in Stockholm on October 15th

For the best kind of sonic assault, Anna von Hasswolff’s band Bada are scheduled to play in Stockholm, Malmö and Gothenburg in late October. 

Have any of you ever seen Gothenburg electronic veterans Little Dragon live? I haven’t but might check them out in November when they swing by Malmö, Stockholm and Gothenburg

Amason are also heading out on the road for a Scandinavian tour in November. If you haven’t heard Amanda Bergman’s voice in a live setting before this will be a treat. 

The inimitable Sibille Attar released her superb second album A History of Silence at the start of the year and she’s finally getting the chance to play her eighties-inspired gems live at Slaktkyrkan in Stockholm on November 18th

Cassandra Jenkins long lurked in the background as a musician in touring bands for people like Eleanor Friedberger and Purple Mountains. But this year’s album An Overview on Phenomenal Nature has really established her as an artist to be reckoned with in her own right. She’s coming to Södra Teatern in Stockholm on November 26th

Always popular in this part of the world, The Jesus and Mary Chain return to Sweden for dates in Stockholm and Gothenburg at the end of November

Wry Finland-Swedish indie outfit Vasas Flora och Fauna have some of the funniest (Swedish) lyrics and catchiest tunes around. They’ll be in Stockholm and Gothenburg the first weekend of December

UK experimental rockers Black Midi are also playing Stockholm and Gothenburg on December 4th and 5th. So prepare to travel if you want to catch both them and Vasas Flora and Fauna. 

As if that wasn’t enough, Bob Hund’s annual ‘week 48’ show also takes place on December 4th. But that has been sold out for ages so no decisions to make there. It is also worth noting though that Sweden’s hardest working band has also written a musical that’s going to be performed in Helsingborg (October-November) and Gothenburg (November)

Bonus: For a post-Christmas pick-me-up try to get down to Little Simz at Slaktkyrkan on January 14th if you’re in Stockholm. The UK rapper’s new album Sometimes I Might Be Introvert is one of this year’s best releases. 

Selected artists playing Sweden in 2022: Henry Rollins, Sarah Klang, Yann Tiersen, Mogwai, Pearl Charles, Wolf Alice, Lloyd Cole, Lord Huron, Future Islands, Josh Rouse + Vetiver, Tricky, Snail Mail, Porridge Radio, Aldous Harding, Shame, The Kooks, The War on Drugs, Echo and the Bunnymen, Kings of Convenience, Fontaines D.C., Alex Cameron, Lucy Dacus, The Divine Comedy, Mdou Moctar, Iggy Pop, Chubby and the Gang, Sparks, Belle & Sebastian, The National, Sharon Van Etten, Teenage Fanclub, Tindersticks, Suede, Viagra Boys, Pavement. 

For bigger arena shows, Ticketmaster covers a lot of the bases. Big-name acts with gigs in the offing include Ed Sheeran, Zara Larsson, Whitesnake and, lest we forget, ABBA

And that’s just a fraction of what’s going on. Tour schedules are busier than ever now that artists are finally getting back on the road. To keep track of what gigs are coming up I can recommend checking in with Luger, FKP Scorpio, and Live Nation. Follow your favourite venues too: sometimes they cut out the middleman and do their own booking and promotion. I also use the Bandsintown app, which comes with the added bonus of receiving messages from your favourite artists which let you pretend to be their friend. 

Enjoy the gigs, and stay safe! 

Paul O’Mahony is editorial product manager at The Local. In his spare time he plays the best new indie and alternative music as host of the Signals show on Nerve Music.