Finding a triple whammy consisting of food, drinks and live music in Davis has always proved to be a challenge. Luckily, Sophia’s Thai Kitchen, located at 129 E St., has taken a stab at solving this problem.
The cozy downtown venue kicks off their spring and summer music season tonight with The West Nile Ramblers and Pokey LaFarge at 10 p.m.
Beginning this week and running through October, Sophia’s charges a cover of $3 for a night of live indie music. During the season, bands from all over are booked for Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights.
For the past three years, “Cool as Folk” KDVS 90.3 FM DJ Michael Leahy, has worked with Sophia’s co-owner Kevin Wan to bring live music to the bar. Since the two began working together, the music scene has been taken to another level, Leahy said. Before the two began collaborating, the live music at the bar was more background music than anything else. As years have gone by, the music has become more of the main event of the night.
“It’s a really unique setting – it’s a different space, bands seem to enjoy it, you’re right on top of the band as a music fan, and there’s not a true boundary between the audience and the performer,” Leahy said. “You immediately have a connection with whoever is playing that night.“
Alex Roth of local band the West Nile Ramblers agreed. The band, formed in late 2007, blends western swing, jazz and Americana to form a new genre of music.
“The intimacy is there … you’re not completely blinded by the light,” Roth said. “[You] make some one-to-one connections with people, you’re staring a bunch of people that you’ll have to see again. It’s good for the performer, good for the crowd, [they] feed off each other’s energy.“
Because of this special bond created between the venue, bands and audience, many musicians return to Sophia’s during the season.
Alex Robbins of Or, The Whale compared Davis to San Francisco, where the band is based. The band, which has played at the South by Southwest Festival, will perform at Sophia’s on June 5.
“[It’s] sort of a nice juxtaposition, total different environment. San Francisco is not a college town and Davis definitely is,” Robbins said. “People actually can walk up, walk by and listen. There’s not a lot of foot traffic in San Francisco, it’s nice to have that aspect going on. It’s a good opportunity to try out new music, relax and enjoy it a little bit more … everyone’s really mellow, warm and welcoming.“
Diego’s Umbrella member Ben Leon added, “It depends on the enthusiasm of the audience itself. It’s really great to make eye contact with the crowd,” Diego’s Umbrella member Ben Leon said.
Diego’s Umbrella, a band that has been categorized as “mexicali gypsy pirate rock,” is another Sophia’s frequenter. They will return to Sophia’s on June 20 and are anticipating a new record to be released this summer.
This year, Leahy and Wan have been trying to set up shows so that the more well known bands can play alongside the local bands that have just sprouted.
“There’s an effort to book more local bands, I want to have a balance of touring acts who are playing large venues and who are somewhat known in magazines [and] have some sort of buzz, and teaming them up with local artists,” Leahy said. “Allowing the local talent for their voices to be heard will help bring out more people and expose more people to the touring bands and it’s a great lesson for local bands who are just starting.“
According to Leahy, showgoers can also expect to see familiar faces playing alongside well-known touring bands.
“We’re going to try to bring bands with good time party vibes that help facilitate fun times,” Leahy said. “We want people to leave happy, appreciate live music, and we want the live music to be accessible and bands to come back. We’re starting the season the same week as the KDVS fundraiser. A lot of the bands playing on KDVS will be performing at Sophia’s Thai Kitchen.“
For more information about sophiasthaikitchen.com.
SIMONE WAHNG can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.