Carefully avoiding the loaded term “unplugged,” the latest in a six-year-old series originally known as The Acoustic Showcase takes place at Low Spirits this Friday. Bands, and varying configurations thereof, perform songs from their respective catalogs as well as selected covers that don’t fit into regular repertoires. Don’t expect old favorites and regurgitated hits. Do expect obscure covers from limited-edition blue-vinyl releases that would make any record-collecting fanboy swoon.
Complete with finger food and cocktails, the first Showcase was held at the home of Edward Burch (Foma) in 2004 and soon moved to venues such as The Launchpad, Burt’s Tiki Lounge, Harlow’s and, of all places, Brickyard Pizza. New club on the block Low Spirits is a natural for this outing since its focus has been bands that fall under the nebulous Americana tag. Since it opened late in 2009, Low Spirits has seen more acoustic guitars on its stage than all the Downtown clubs in the past year combined.
It’s anyone’s guess which members of participating bands will form each acoustic set, but there are a few things to watch for, including some original Showcase veterans.
Billy Belmont has been impressive since his first performance in Albuquerque, when he had just moved to town. Few knew anything of him besides a smattering of songs from his Clovis-based rock outfit Weapons of Mass Destruction. “Who is this guy?!” everyone was asking, and with good reason. As impressive as his more recent projects Bellemah and The Belmont have been, Billy’s one-man gigs are truly a showcase of his exquisite songwriting, sweet vocals and expert timing.
Also appearing at each showcase since the beginning has been Mark Campagna: a man who changes bands, lineups and band names like you or I change socks, but always with a vaguely psych-pop British Invasion bent. His latest outfit, The Hollow Lines, began as a solo show but soon took on ex-members of Small Flightless Birds and Smoke Rings.
Lousy Robot is the master of the local pop universe. Hearing axe-man/vocalist Jim Phillips stripped down to an acoustic guitar (his new Martin DX1, I hope) gives an excellent opportunity to hear his songs’ skeleton melodies and heartrending lyrics clearly.
An acoustic show gives these musicians an opportunity to take chances they normally wouldn’t. The results range from quietly spectacular to experiments that don’t always achieve the intended result. Either way, it’s a brave move. Over the years, performers have said they felt exposed in ways they wouldn't with the usual wall of electric guitars defending them from the audience.
Whether or not you’ve heard these bands plugged in, the acoustic series is an excellent way to witness the range of talent and chutzpah of our local songsmiths.