Acoustic music is riding a wave of popularity, as more and more fans want to hear the unamplified tones of their guitar heroes, or see for themselves if singers really are hitting all the right notes.
Venues across the region are following the fashion and booking acoustic acts. But what’s behind the trend?
Trowbridge licensee and music promotor Peewee Hunt, who’s been involved in the music scene locally for 30 years, feels young people are driving the latest surge in popularity for the acoustic form.
“There are some acts, like Frank Turner and Sam Isaac, who have a phenomenal following among 18/19/20-year-olds,” he said. “I am always being asked ‘why can’t I book them?’, but I think they have got out of my range now – Frank sold out the Colston Hall in Bristol recently. He has had enormous impact on teenagers.
“My own son is a keen electric guitarist and he now plays a lot more acoustic stuff because of him. If you come into my pub on a Friday night when it’s full of youngsters most of them have heard of them.”
Peewee, who has added a once-a-month series of acoustic gigs to his bookings for 2010, also credits the impact of the Trowbridge Village Pump Festival.
“In recent years hundreds and hundreds of young people from the area have started going, and 70 per cent of the music they hear there is acoustic. You see the youngsters sitting round in the evenings there with their guitars making their own music, which is fantastic, it’s what the festival should be all about,” said the founder member of the event, which now covers four days at Stowford Manor Farm at Wingfield, just outside the town, every July.
Acoustic acts have found the perfect venue in Chippenham since Fred and Norma Guscott opened The Cause Music and Arts Centre in a former Methodist chapel.
“It’s a natural music hall space, so its perfect for acoustic gigs,” Fred explained.
“Low ceilinged buildings have a dead sound to them, but we’ve been named as one of the best acoustic venues in the country.”
He feels music fans today are experiencing a backlash from the big stadium gigs of the 1990s, where Robbie Williams and U2 played to hundreds of thousands, many of whom heard every note through giant speakers and were so far from the stage they could only catch glimpses of the acts on massive video screens.
“Hearing someone sing without amplification or electronic gizmos, you get more of the performance and can hear the dynamics in the music as well. You see people’s emotions and characters,” he said.
He also thinks reality music TV shows such as The X Factor have given people more respect for the abilities of a capella singers, adding: “I think it’s great that performers audition without backing tracks.”
But the two men have opposing views on whether the growth of world music has inspired a greater appreciation of acoustic sound. “World music has helped, because people start to appreciate the music that is part of their own heritage and culture as well,” says Fred, who feels the trend has also begun to bring folk music out of the shadows and back into the mainstream.
Peewee’s experience is a different one. “I think it’s the older people who like world music,” he said. “Any world music on my jukebox, it’s the older people who play it.”
London folk performer Trevor Moss, who heads to Dilton Marsh on Saturday, February 13 with his partner Hannah Lou and members of The Lantern Society, also thinks the trend is youth-led.
He said: “Acoustic music has never really gone away but its name changes, the modern ‘folk’ resurgence is really in the most part not folk music as was formerly known. So, herald in ‘new folk’ ‘nu-folk’ ‘anti-folk’ or simply ‘acoustic’ ..etc... etc.
“What it really all points towards is a swing in the fashion for idols, from TV show creations or otherwise, in favour of the anti-hero, honest, everyday and normal.
“And a man or woman simply with a guitar, laying it all out for everyone to see, with honesty and skill, is a form that anyone who can get their hands on a guitar can replicate. This is inspiration enough, aspirational but achievable.”
Tickets are available from www.wegottickets.com/lantern at £5, with limited tickets on the door at £6 .