By Tabitha Mueller
An olive oil and wine bar may sound like the least likely place for a secret pop-up concert, but on Thursday about 40 people gathered at We Olive and Wine Bar (South Virginia Street) for just that reason.
SoFar Reno, a branch of the international music events startup SoFar Sounds, hosted the show. The concert featured artists Rachel Mcelhiney from Reno, Aaron Oropeza of Truckee, and Stray Local, the husband and wife duo of Jamie Rowen and Hannah Lomas from Wilmington, NC.
As guests arrived, they spread blankets and pillows across the floor and settled in with wine and food purchased from a special menu offered by the venue. The warmly lit, blanket-spread shop resembled a cozy living room that lent the event an intimate feel.
Everyone’s just focusing on you and your music.”
“Never thought I’d see a concert in an oil and wine bar, but this vibe is unbeatable,” said Matthew Bell, a first-time attendee.
Guests purchase tickets online to attend. They are not notified of the venue’s location until the day of the performance and are unaware of the performers until they arrive and see artists’ names posted near the entrance.
Chelsea Rangel, curator and founder of SoFar Reno, brought the secret concert series with her from San Jose.
“I love that SoFar is all about bringing that magic back to live music, to where people are actually listening and experiencing what the artist has to say,” she said.
In her opening remarks, Rangel asked concert-goers to remain through the entire event and reminded them of SoFar’s motto: “Be still and listen.”
She told the story of how SoFar began, describing how artists wanted to have a space centered on music rather than having music as a backdrop.
Each artist played a 20- to 25-minute set featuring both original songs and covers. During the performance, artists shared the stories behind their pieces and talked about their inspiration.
“That song is actually about a dog,” said Rachel McElhinney after she performed her original song “Violet” from her recently released EP.
Aaron Oropeza, a regular performer at Truckee Tavern and the second performer of the evening, joked as he tuned his guitar, “Wow, everybody paying attention, it’s just crazy.”
McElhinney echoed this sentiment. “It was very nerve-wracking but also exciting. I was like, I can’t look. It’s a different sound – getting to hear yourself that well. Everyone’s just focusing on you and your music,” she said.
SoFar Reno also consists of volunteers who host concerts at their homes or businesses, as well as those who help organize and set up the event.
“I love the intimacy, getting to see people I’ve never seen before. It’s a different experience. There are local artists performing here every week and you just don’t know,” said Stephanie Gougel, a volunteer for SoFar Reno.
SoFar Reno is hosting their next concert on October 25th, from 8-10 pm — the location yet to be disclosed. Tickets can be purchased at https://www.sofarsounds.com/reno. If you are interested in hosting a concert at your home or business or volunteering, email [email protected]