On the Scene
Leah Black and Friends
Acoustic jams from electric performers
By Simon McCormack
As someone whose music is sometimes not taken seriously because of her day job, it makes sense that 93.3 KOB FM DJ Leah Black wants people's hidden talents to shine. Black has gathered up four musicians who made names for themselves with amplified guitars and asked them to strip it down for an evening. From her experiences in her rock/soul pop band, Black has seen the highs and lows of being an acoustic performer, who thrives on the vulnerability of being without electricity. Black talked to the Alibi about being naked on stage.
Tell me about the performers.
There will be four different guitarists and myself. Josh Paulson, a singer-songwriter from Amarillo, Mike Garcia, lead singer of The Big Spank, Michael Hammil, another awesome singer-songwriter and Ryan McGarvey, a smokin' guitarist who's the No. 20 artist on CDBaby.com, in terms of sales. He just turned 21, and he's crazy good. They'll showcase their solo stuff, and then I'll get up and perform with each of them and do a little solo set myself.
Why organize a show like this?
Well, I've heard all the acoustic stuff from these guys, and they don't get to go out and showcase it. We might sit around and have a party and play some stuff, but, in general, nobody gets to hear the other side of them. This is a chance to shine them in a different light.
How is the acoustic setting different?
They'll have a chance to explain what their songs mean. It won't be a ton of talk, but they can explain some of their songwriting process and what their songs are about. It's always cool to find out about how someone came about writing their weird, pretty song.
Are there pitfalls to being an unplugged musician?
It's a lot harder than having a band, and Albuquerque's kind of a rock town. It's much more exciting to watch when you have a band because there are chances for solos and a driving beat and things like that. It's more difficult for the audience to get into an acoustic show. It's intimate and even if someone's passionately playing a song acoustically, it's still harder for the audience to get into it and get up and dance. You're naked and vulnerable as an acoustic performer and it's sometimes tough to get people to be attentive.
So why keep doing it?
It's a constant battle, but you always have to sing with your soul. Don't do acoustic if you don't want to put your heart into it. People can see you're doing what you love and you can have more of a connection with your audience. They feel more like your friends.
What are some misconceptions about acoustic musicians?
That they're all boring, sensitive and sappy. That's so not true, especially with these players. Mike Garcia has a song with a great melody, a great hook. He's talking about getting dicked over by a girl and he says, 'Fuck you!' and it's really intense. Hopefully, we can change some of those stereotypes and people can see how different it can be.
What do you hope people get out of the acoustic night?
I hope it inspires them. The stuff people are writing about--dreams, failed relationships, anger, elated joy--I think people can relate to. I hope they can check it out and actually feel something that leaves them wanting to creat something on their own.
Leah Black and Friends: Acoustic Jams is Wednesday, Dec. 19, at Ralli's Fourth Street Pub and Grill (21+). Leah's friends are Ryan McGarvey, Josh Paulson (Amarillo), Mike Garcia (The Big Spank) and Michael Hamill.
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