John Cripps (left) and Nathan Lovell of Nathan Lovel. Photo by Andrew Ladd
Coffee shops and acoustic guitars are not normally the scene on a Saturday night in Anchorage but last Saturday was an exception as two of the cities premiere alternative rock bands took the stage at Cafe Felix. Sunbury joined Nathan Lovel for scaled down acoustic sets on the small but stylishly-cozy confines of the coffee house located inside Metro Music and Books. Both bands typically offer high-fueled, often distorted and intense rock music, usually playing at venues like Chilkoot Charlie's or Blues Central, but this time the vibe was different.
"Electric shows are energetic. You plug in and crank the distortion and start playing rocked out versions of your songs. The acoustic shows are more intimate and laid back. It appeals to a wider range of people. You pull up a bar stool and start playing stripped down versions of your songs. The audience can really focus on lyrics and notes. After all, these lyrics and notes are the basic structure for every song. It's like bringing the audience into your living room," said John Cripps, who is normally the guitarist for Anchorage's Bullet for Daisy however this time was the guest lead guitarist for Nathan Lovel.
In the mid 1990's a trend was developed as hard rock acts such as Nirvana and Alice in Chains took to the set of MTV's Unplugged and performed more mellow, acoustic versions of their popular songs. Since then audiences have become increasingly open to more subtle versions of their favorite rockers and Anchorage could be becoming a city where these performances are showcased.
Russ Perry, singer and guitarist for Sunbury, offered his thoughts on why this style may appeal to an audience, "There is something more intimate about an acoustic performance when compared to an electric one. When you can strip a song down and make it more of a one on one conversation with the audience it's easier for people to relate to it and I think it goes to a deeper level in the person’s listening."
For those purists who favor viewing local bands in their full plugged-in glory, fear not; there are plenty of electric shows on the horizon in Anchorage. But for now there is at least a glimmer of hope for those who now and then like to hear the gentle strum of an acoustic guitar, and return home with a melody in their head and not just a ringing in their ear.