Sofar Sounds Rochester
Interview No. 40
When you go through the ‘would like to haves’ of a city—green space, music, restaurants, easy commute to work, art galleries, etc.—Rochester ticks all of those boxes and more.
What part of Rochester are you from?
Webster! I’m currently living in Swillburg.
What is your favorite part of living in Rochester?
After college, I thought about leaving Rochester (like a lot of people who go through the ‘what am I even doing here?’ phase). But the longer I stayed, the more I realized everything I wanted was already in motion, and I needed to embrace it / stretch my legs. When you go through the ‘would like to haves’ of a city—green space, music, restaurants, easy commute to work, art galleries, etc.—Rochester ticks all of those boxes and more.
Do you have any favorite Rochester spots?
It’s no secret, but it is the best: The Little. They always have something I want to see. I like to go there solo—it helps me reset. I don’t know why, but that place just puts me right. And their popcorn...
What is your favorite time of day to hang out in the city?
Mornings (which is a relatively new development).
What is your favorite day of the week?
Describe your dream Rochester day.
Saturday brunch at the Owl House with my favorite man, tofu and waffles, and a Bloody Mary. Afterwards, walk the dog around Highland Park, grab a beer at Swiftwater, and do a crossword puzzle. Dinner at Natural Oasis, a quick showing of Wet Hot American Summer, and a bonfire in the backyard (if I haven’t already fallen asleep on the couch).
We have a solid history of independent productions and house shows, and I wanted to be a part of that in a bigger way.
Do you have a favorite neighborhood?
Swillburg and the South Wedge.
Personal coping method for cold/grey weather?
My L.L. Bean parka. You need to get smart and stock your winter toolkit! Also, snow tires.
What is your favorite Rochester memory?
My first concert at Water Street when I was 12 years old—it was a Guster show and my dad took me and my best friend. Something clicked about live music—going to the city to see a concert was special. I still have the t-shirt.
What do you think could be improved?
A handful of high-level issues come to mind, but for the sake of this interview, I will go with: more bike lanes.
If Rochester were a drink, what would it be?
A Genny redeye.
What made you want to bring Sofar to Rochester?
I work in radio and was wondering, “What else can I be doing with music?” I was following Sofar Sounds (the international organization) on Instagram and felt like Rochester was perfect for it - we have a solid history of independent productions and house shows, and I wanted to be a part of that in a bigger way. My friend’s brother was a photographer for Sofar in New York City, so I talked with him, and it all came together pretty quickly. Our first show was in November 2015.
What was involved in bringing Sofar to Rochester?
I worked with a Sofar Community Manager who handles all inquiries to kind of get things started. The international Sofar community is so welcoming and ready to work together on just about anything. I even received a bag of homemade wooden Sofar pins from Russia! The team working on Sofar Rochester is the greatest group of humans—Claudia Pietrzak, Halley Erhardt, Mike Farrington, Sylvan Hemmingway, Lauren Lesio, Irene Kanyo, Colleen Rennie and Megan Johncox.
How has Sofar been received so far?
The feedback has been incredible. The ‘apply for a ticket’ and ‘confirm your spot’ concept got a couple head-tilts at first, but once the room was full, quiet, and they heard the first strum of the guitar, it clicked. We took the feedback from that first show, as well as the energy from the room, and lived on it as we moved forward with creating the next eight shows. What I love most about Sofar Sounds is the intentional nature. Our guests trust us to create an experience worthy of their Saturday evening, knowing nothing but the date, and that for a few hours they can unplug and be surprised. We always keep that fact, that trust the audience places in us, on our minds as we plan these events. It's a powerful thing when a room of 75 people listens intently together.
What’s your vision for Sofar Roc?
We’re excited to bring more touring bands to Rochester from all over the country. We worked with Sofar Philadelphia for our April show to have two Philly bands perform, and it was really cool to have them play with St. Phillips Escalator. We’re going to keep mixing up the performers as we grow (in both locale and genre). We’ve talked about adding comedy and dance performers as well, so expect to see that in the next year. We’re also looking to do two shows a month after our one year anniversary show in November—adding something even smaller, and more on the side of a living room show (in that it is in an actual living room).
Do you have any advice for people who want to start a new organization in the Rochester community?
It’s easy to look around and think “I have an idea, but someone is already doing it, so there’s no room for me.” Do it anyways. Get over your initial fear and hesitation and go for it! Do your research, put your own spin on it, and work with people who are just as excited as you are. And have a firm handshake.