It was a typical Friday afternoon in August 2015 when punk duo Slaves posted an exciting Twitter update aimed at fans based in Manchester.
With no pre-warning or promotion running up to the event, the Kent-based band revealed that they would be performing in the city centre in one hour’s time.
Sure enough, around two hundred fans and passers-by congregated in the bustling Piccadilly Gardens for the impromptu 15 minute set – which saw lead singer Isaac Holman crowd surf and fall to the ground.
In a similar event last month, unsuspecting passengers on a London tube carriage witnessed a “fully fledged rave” led by drum’n’bass MC Harry Shotta.
Again, this was shared online and covered by the media shortly after the police had shut it down.
These artists are not alone in bringing the traditional conventions of a gig environment to an unusual setting. British libraries, a cemetery in Hollywood and a boat in Paris have all previously played host to crowds of gig-goers too.
The growing phenomenon appears to have roots which first began a few years ago.
Founded in 2010, Sofar Sounds is just one of the websites which has helped to shape and transformed the classic gig experience.
Sofar offers unique musical and live performance experiences for its members, while working to bring “the magic back to live music.”
The company behind the website is a network of artists, hosts and attendees that work to put together unique live shows in secret locations.
Co-founder Rafe Offer told The Line of Best Fit that going to a gig simply “isn’t magical anymore.”
“When you hear music and it captivates you, there is nothing like it, especially to a music fan like myself. But I found that the whole experience of a live gig was letting me down.
“We in Sofar think there are better ways than watching someone in a packed stadium. It can be good, but there’s zero intimacy and no real connection with the artist.
“We’ve tapped into a subculture of people who value the music above their smartphones or the drink.”
With Sofar Sound’s active social media presence leading the way, a clear link between technology and the hosting and organisation of events of this kind is formed.
Sheffield band Reverend & The Makers launched a social media campaign back in January 2014 to find 32 unique gig locations – including residential homes, halls of residence and garages.
In a video posted on PledgeMusic, frontman Jon McClure explained that if fans pre-ordered their album, they could be in with a chance of having the group play in their living room.
The response was incredible. As promised, the band traveled around the UK in a camper van throughout January and February, stopping at various locations.
“It’s impossible to have mystique in life anymore since the internet and social media,” says Jon, “my thing is to run with that and be super real about it all.”
After taking to the stage at festivals such as Glastonbury, T in the Park and T4 on the Beach, performing within a confined space is undoubtedly a very different experience for the band.
“Both are great to be honest. Different obviously. I think it’s important to still do the house gigs.
“You can’t fake it and there’s always that element of chaos in a house gig.”
The band stopped off at a house in the Cumbrian town of Ulverston during the unique tour and student Jack Kennedy was there.
“I had the chance to sing with Jon from the band which was a great experience. One that I won’t ever forget.
“I think these experiences make you feel like you are a friend of the band. As the gig was so intimate, it felt like we were all part of the performance in a sense.”
A poll shared on Twitter found that 90% of 58 respondents would choose to attend a gig of this kind.
The responses revealed that gig-goers would be most interested in the atmosphere and memories created, as well as being able to tell others about the unique experience.
High street music store HMV also latched onto the trend after collapsing into administration in January 2013.
223 shops and more than 4,000 jobs were put at risk which was blamed on the dramatic changes in how Britain shopped and listened to music. Consumers opted for Amazon and Apple instead.
The key to HMV’s response was to focus on what it can offer that these retailers can’t – such as hosting unique events.
Over 300 live in-store performances have since taken place up and down the country with well-known musicians such as Ed Sheeran, The Cribs and The Courteeners all taking to the shop floor.
HMV employee Jack Tildsley says he has previously heard of people travelling large distances to see the exclusive performances.
“Other than the fact that these performances are often free, I’d say the appeal lies in them being more intimate. They’re often without a stage and there’s only around a hundred or so people in attendance, rather than thousands.
“The rarity of seeing acoustic sets can also be a draw, along with the chance to interact with the band and even get the album signed.”
The increase in live performances has ensured that HMV is close to gaining the title of UK’s biggest music and DVD retailer back from Amazon.
With the established music store following the trend, the question of whether intimate gigs of this kind will eventually become the norm is raised.
Huge pop sensation Katy Perry is set to play an intimate gig at the 200-capacity Water Rats pub in King’s Cross in London next week, while the city will also see a pop-up opera event in the unusual Thames Tunnel Shaft venue in June.
Music journalist Jamie Bowman believes that if people learn that they can put on gigs in interesting places, the traditional setup of a gig will definitely be transformed.
“We seem to like everything ’boutique’ or ‘artisan’ now. It’s almost like that with a gig, these are like ‘artisan’ gigs or ‘craft’ gigs.
“There’s a bit more thought in them and you can probably charge a bit more because of that.
“I’ve spoken to some promoters recently who are using a church in Chester and there’s so many costs that they can cut down on or be creative with, when compared to using the mainstream live venues.
“They can cut out the middle man, they can probably make a bit more money and they can look after the bands better.
“I think it is going to affect the circuit, it really is. It’s DIY culture and people are attracted to that.”
Featured image credit: Abbie Jennings