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The Sophisticated Sounds of Songs From a Room

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Houston's third installment of Songs from a Room went off without a hitch Monday night at the apartment of David Cordua on the cusp of East Montrose and Midtown. The concept-concert series, started in London by Twilight heartthrob Robert Pattinson, has become a "movement" that (according to its website) "brings music lovers together in an unusual setting (often in a secret living room) to hear the most innovative new music, during [which] nobody talks, everyone listens - creating the most intimate and spellbinding atmosphere."

Organized by Heather Pray and hosted by Cordua, chef and son of Americas and Churrascos restauranteur Michael Cordua, the event was certainly intimate and yes, even spellbinding at moments. Art Attack will reserve judgment on the "innovative" nature of the music. The three bands chosen to perform, Winter Wallace, Castle Lights and headliner Barcelona (which is actually from Seattle) were definitely easy on the ears.

"Sophisticated" is the word we're looking for.

In fact, this event screams sophistication. From the tastefully decorated and furnished three-level, loft-style townhome, to the thoughtfully chosen beer and wine, to the complimentary ceviche and fried plantains, to the mandatory cash admission (but you're on the honor system). There's nothing wrong with this, of course--in fact it's quite lovely.

The music was well-mixed, with the perfect level of amplification; the bands displayed great musicianship in a stripped-down-Coldplay kind of way, with swooning voices and passionate lyrics. Barcelona was the hands-down favorite, and frontman Brian Fennell delivered a funny bit of banter about how Cordua's place was the best venue the band had ever played, and yet they came close to witnessing a real-life episode of Cops right off West Gray near the apartment.

The group of spectators (40 something in total) seemed to be having a nice, sophisticated time.

Our only reservation was that it felt, at times, a bit...forced.

SoFAR, as it's niftily shortened, obviously has its origins in the kind of impromptu house parties that just naturally shift into impromptu concerts when musicians pick up instruments and hypnotize a living room. But as an organized event, it has the potential to feel churchy and staged. As Fennell pointed out, he and his band had attended (and played) house concerts before. "But they didn't have ceviche," he said. Adding structure, rules (no talking during the music) and an element of social cache to what would normally occur as a result of the perfect combination of people, mood and environment (and planning, of course) doesn't recreate the magic of those moments. It becomes something else. And that something else is SoFAR. It is what it is.

That said, it's obviously an awesome feeling for the musicians, with everybody paying close attention. They couldn't stop talking about how great it felt to perform in that setting. It definitely showed. They were beaming and delighted to be there. As my date pointed out, one of the drummers looked as if he was on the verge of orgasm. "But don't drummers just look like that sometimes?" I asked.

Oh, right. No talking.

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