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Why I don't go see acoustic acts

Discussion in 'Bass Humor & Gig Stories [BG]' started by oniman7, Aug 11, 2012.

  1. Now that I've drawn you in, I thought I'd rant at you guys for a little about about trite, cliched and boring local bands. It doesn't just apply to acoustic acts (by any means) but is the reason I won't see an acoustic act unless I know them or they happen to be playing a show I'm going to.

    Every single acoustic act I've seen live is the same. A single person sitting on a stool with an acoustic guitar and singing some cover songs. They usually rely on their little bit of charisma and decent voice to get themselves through. But after 10 minutes of open position chords in the key of G or C, everything sounds the same. Even when they almost inevitably put a capo on the 2nd or 3rd fret and switch up the keys. It's still just open chords with predictable chord progressions and even vocal melodies. I always feel like they should add a bassist or drummer or pianist or a little box that they can stomp on in rhythm or something. Or maybe a Jam man.

    Not to say there aren't quality acoustic acts out there, even in my city. But I won't go see one if I don't know who they are because there are too many like this.

    Why do I pick on acoustic acts? Well, I guess it's because there's only one member. In a contrived, cliched terrible metal band (of which my city has a TON) there are 3 to 5 unique members. There's a much higher chance that at least one of them has something unique or memorable. Because of the fact that they use electric instruments, they can at least change effects or tones or something.

    But for the solo acoustic instrumentalist, it's just that acoustic instrument and their voice.

    I don't know where this rant is going, really. I just feel like if those types of people are really serious about their craft, they should either learn to write and play some more interesting parts (maybe even Andy McKee type stuff) or maybe fill out the band to make it a little more interesting. Does anybody else ever have the same annoyances? Or am I just hypercritical?
    Ukiah Bass likes this.
  2. Epitaph04

    Epitaph04 Always overcompensating Supporting Member

    Jul 5, 2010
    There should be more guys like this.

    Tbone76, Veldar, droo46 and 8 others like this.
  3. cjmodulus


    Jul 15, 2010
    Check out The Tallest Man On Earth. Interesting voice, beautiful lyrics, and very interesting guitar playing. Not you're average solo acoustic act.
  4. drummer5359

    drummer5359 Gold Supporting Member

    Jan 10, 2011
    Pittsburgh PA USA

    I play hand percusion in two different acoustic trios, both are made up of a singer/guitarist, bass player and me. One is a cover band, the other is about 50% to 60% covers and and the rest originals. It depends on the venue.

    We keep busy.

    This is the band that does originals, The Green Ridge Runners.


    The cover band is Feral.


    Admitedly, we are not in your area. But my point is that there are people out there making it a point to not be "the same old thing".
    bassbully likes this.
  5. pklima

    pklima Commercial User

    May 2, 2003
    Kraków, Polska
    Karoryfer Samples
    I do a pretty good amount of acoustic work too, with a couple of different bands. Acoustic acts get a lot of work because they're not as loud, doesn't take up as much space, and doesn't need as much time to set up and tear down as most bands. There's also often fewer members to pay and drink. That's pretty appealing to a venue. I suspect a lot of them would be even more appealing if their setlists were more upbeat both musically and lyrically - more like those of a typical cover band.

    With my bands you'll get a few "acoustic guitar type songs" but they'll either be funny ones like "Homegrown Tomatoes" or danceable ones like sambas. We'll play a lot more songs where the original version is totally electronic.
  6. CnB77


    Jan 7, 2011
    I agree, people who play any style of music but always use the same chords, chord voicings, and/or progressions are profoundly boring to listen to. Especially when they're a solo acoustic act with no way of otherwise varying the sound.
  7. RustyAxe


    Jul 8, 2008
    I'm an acoustic performer (solo, duo, and band) and I get what the OP is trying to say. Too many times I've seen a "fool on a stool" with a crappy acoustic guitar and cheap amp singing the same old tired covers accompanied by the "open mic strum" (you know what I mean). BORING! But if the patrons don't complain, the venue owner won't either.

    My acoustic projects strive to be different and varied. As a solo, I'm a finger picker and my set list includes songs from every era ... ragtime, jazz, country, folk, pop. My vocals are first rate (if I listen to my audience's comments at shows) and my guitar parts are composed, ie, they have interesting and varied content.

    My duo projects are threefold ... I play acoustic guitar and sing with another singer/guitarist, and our specialty is older Americana, specializing in those "brother acts" ... Louvin, Stanley, Osborne, Delmore, even Everly. My second duo I play bass (acoustic bass guitar or upright acoustic bass) with a singer/songwriter who is well know for his bluesy jazz compositions, but we also do his other stuff ... country, jazz, and even some "folkie" stuff. 99.9% originals ... and always well received. My third duo is little more rockin', with another singer/songwriter. The acts are all VERY different, and the contents of each set list is varied.

    So, if one doesn't know the act, and chooses to forego a listen based on the single fact that it is acoustic, one might well miss out on something worth hearing. My own assessment of a performer(s) skill: If I walked into a restaurant/bar/cafe and heard two songs would I stay for a third. Often, the answer is a resounding NO! But on occasion I've been treated to an evening of acoustic delight.

    And then there's the country band ... but that's a different kettle of fish.
  8. wong99


    Jun 6, 2012
    I'm with you Oniman7.
    There are few things that I hate more than walking into a restaurant for a nice meal and there is some clown in shorts, flip-flops, Hawaiian shirt, and baseball cap doing a Jimmy Buffet Margaritaville set.
    Talk about ruin your appitite! Who hires these guys?
  9. Well not all acoustic acts are like this. There are plenty acoustic jazz acts after all and they go way above things that you mentioned. But on acoustic guitar cover acts, yes, I pretty much agree with you. In my experiences anyway, that acoustic cover guitarist is always a bit of a douche.
  10. Johnny DeVille

    Johnny DeVille

    Feb 18, 2012
    John Gomm is amazing ! Thanks for the link Epi !
    Tom Bomb likes this.
  11. Bob C

    Bob C

    Mar 26, 2000
    Duluth, MN
    Solo and duo acts seem to be more popular than ever in my area. Maybe it's because the economy can't support live dance bands. Or they've been around for a long time and I hadn't paid attention.

    As with all types of music, there is good, bad and mediocre out there. With acoustic music, the stories and banter are a big part of it, since there is no dancing, chug-a-lugs, mosh pit or breast flashing.

    As with TV, if you don't like it, turn the channel.
  12. I wouldn't take that away from you. One of the best acts I've ever seen was a local bluegrass band (Grandpa's Cough Medicine) and I don't even like bluegrass!

    Where I live, I could go see 4 or 5 shows a nighht -- and that's just the popular venues. I have to miss out on a lot.

    Now, acoustic acts/ acoustic jazz trios are really pretty good in Saint Augustine some times, but I wouldn't go out of my way to see most of the sollo guys in a venue.

    There are also two girls in Saint Augustine that play weird macabre classical music infused with rock, dance and folk roots. One plays a violin and the other plays miscellaneous strings like guitar, Mandolin, ukulele etc. I like them
  13. phmike


    Oct 25, 2006
    Nashville, TN
    Venues/patrons/etc get what they pay for. There are lotsa places in Nashville (that's the place I live and know, other cities are likely the same) that pay just $50 total for 3-4 hours of a "chimp on a chair" playing cover tunes with a few originals. And note that sometimes that does not include food/drink/parking. Do the math - 4 hrs playing, 1 hr set up, 1 hr tear down, time/gas to/from venue, possibly paying for food/parking, etc and you are playing for less than minimum wage unless folks tip well and buy your CDs.

    Venues often don't/can't/won't pay enough for a 3 or more piece band to attract not only better quality shows but ANY multi-piece band. A venue needs to earn more in food/drink sales than it pays the band. (3 piece band offered $150 for 3 hr show, see math above) See the various threads on Talkbass or other sites like acoustic guitar forum, etc about bands playing for free or just tips or even paying to play. A popular alternative for venues is the song writer evening or open mic where they get folks to provide entertainment for free. Too often artists/bands play for free/cheap (hoping for tips) or don't play at all. An iPod set to shuffle is not my kinda entertainment but it's all a lot of places can afford.
  14. wong99


    Jun 6, 2012
    Are you saying that really good tight quality bands do not build business/revenue for a club?
    If club owners saw it as a long term investment in building the kind of reputation that creates business they would be well served.
    I see it as being analogous to the restaurant owner who serves crappy food, has poor attendance so he buys cheaper food to serve and then scratches his head in wonder when he goes belly-up.
  15. bassfran


    Mar 1, 2012
    Endorsing artist: Lakland basses
    Thanks for the heads-up! Great stuff.
  16. jive1

    jive1 Commercial User

    Jan 16, 2003
    Owner/Retailer: Jive Sound
    Who says you can't do acoustic and metal? I actually have fun doing that. I do acoustic shows, and I usually include one Metal tune if only for my own enjoyment.

    Metallica Creeping Death

    I have a bunch of other ones on my YouTube channel.
    lancimouspitt likes this.
  17. As long as the writing is good..or great. All the open mics I go to around here have at least 2 or 3 guys trying to be like Andy McKee, and it throws off their rhythm on the vocals usually.

    What I really can't stand is that there may be that one girl that does the "I just bought a ukelele at costco so now I'm gonna sing my favorite theme songs". At that point I vomit and ask for my money back on the chicken I ordered
  18. DerTeufel

    DerTeufel Supporting Member

    Nov 11, 2011
    Wildomar, CA
    You are a riot..I'd come watch your shows!
  19. drummer5359

    drummer5359 Gold Supporting Member

    Jan 10, 2011
    Pittsburgh PA USA
    Playing different songs is part of the key to doing acoustic music well.

    Besides our originals the one band covers songs such as:

    -Come together (I do the tom rolls down my cajon.)

    -Crossroads (Guitar, bass and cajon bases blues jam, it works.)

    -Ziggy Stardust (this one turns heads. We do an accurate cover, only acoustic.)

    -Sympathy for the devil (Guitar, bass and congas.)

    -Knocking on heaven's door (The hand percussion makes this work in my opinion.)


    The other acoustic trio that I'm in covers some somewhat diverse stuff as well, such as:

    -Twilight zone (This one is a lot of fun to play and not covered by many acts at all, electric or acoustic.)

    -Rooster (This one surprised me the first time that they suggested it.)

    -The Seeker (This is probably my favorite song that I do with this band. I get to play Keith Moon fills on congas while doing Pete Townsend's backing vocals.)


    By doing a mix of cover tunes with different arrangements both bands are able to anything from low volume resturant gigs to outdoor festivals. As three piece acoustic acts our footprint is relatively small. We are easily booked, busy and having fun.
  20. jive1

    jive1 Commercial User

    Jan 16, 2003
    Owner/Retailer: Jive Sound
    As a guy who does acoustic shows, if you're going alone it's a little harder than you think. First to entertain an audience by yourself takes some skill and confidence. I'm way more nervous doing a solo acoustic thing, than a duo, trio or band. I'm just more comfortable having other musicians to lean on if needed.

    As far as the open chord stuff, when you are going alone it may be the voicing that works. If you are taking a Rock band cover and reducing it to one guitar, you'll have to take some liberties or simplify to fill out the sound. Open chords fill out the low end pretty well, and the strumming fills out the drum rhythm. Sure you could fingerpick and go all pretty, but you lose the "Rock" feel of the song. There's also the singing aspect as well, and some parts are harder to sing and play at the same time, or don't fit vocally. Sometimes the song doesn't fit the vocalist's range, so they have to use a capo. Open chords are a staple of acoustic music, similar to power chords to Metal. Even the monsters of acoustic like Michael Hedges, Al DiMeola, and Blind Willie McTell use open chords or create themes based on them in the same way that Metal guitarists like James Hetfield and Scott Ian use power chords.

    The thing I like about acoustic acts is to see how they rearrange a tune to it's most simplistic level. Some do well, some don't. But, an acoustic act can really let me see the quality of a song. To me, a great song can stand on it's own regardless of instrumentation. A good song will sound good and move people whether it's played on a single acoustic guitar or with a symphony orchestra.
    bassbully and Davela92 like this.

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