Did you know that those punk-rock groups that blast their instruments and scream themselves hoarse are actually performing songs?
Well, of course you did. That's why we love the annual Vans Warped Tour.
But what would happen if those artists to whom we have all been banging our heads suddenly unplugged their amps and brought their performances down to the bare acoustic essentials?
That's the question posed and possibly answered by Brian Marquis, formerly of Therefore I Am, with the Acoustic Basement Tour which comes to the Smiling Moose on the South Side tonight.
"I produced the first Acoustic Basement Tour last summer," Mr. Marquis said. "It's an intimate kind of punk-rock, basement show kind of vibe, where you get up close and personal with your favorite artists playing stripped-down raw versions of their songs.
"I started it with Warped Tour. I thought, 'You know, there's a lot of great artists in the punk and alternative realm that are doing some great acoustic stuff, some great songs.' I thought it could stand on its own little satellite tour in the winter, showcase to people that might not know that there's a new attraction from the Warped Tour. There's an acoustic stage."
It's still the artists and the songs that fans of the Warped Tour know and love. Mr. Marquis; Koji; Geoff Rickly of Thursday; Vinnie Caruana of I Am The Avalance and The Movielife; and members of A Loss For Words.
"In some ways it's softer," Mr. Marquis said. "Some of the guys are singer-songwriters themselves that might play full band and have full-band recordings, and now they play acoustic and one vocal. They're still in a full-on pop-punk band, but they play these amazing acoustic versions and some really cool covers. It does have a different vibe from what you might normally get out of a show with these guys on it."
And the artists get a different reaction from the audience, though it's been favorable.
"I think they appreciate getting the experience," Mr. Marquis said. "A lot of these guys have been on big stages and it's just cool for the fans to be in a small room where they're real close to the artist. They can hear and see everything really well. I haven't heard anybody that's been bummed. I certainly enjoy the different versions of the different songs that these guys are doing from their different bands.
"I'm sure there's always somebody who misses that guitar solo. But they know what they're getting when they come out. There's no surprises there."
At the time he organized the tour, Mr. Marquis was still friends with the other five guys. But that was before he booked 21 cities in 23 days of February.
Still, he said, no worries.
"They're all touring veterans, they're all used to it," he said. "I routed it so that most of the drives are all two to four hours.
"We're all used to being on really harsh punk tours where sometimes you drive 22 hours straight to get from, you know, Austin, Texas, to Phoenix. I made sure this tour was real tight on the East Coast because we're all going to be traveling in the same van together and sharing hotel rooms together."
Here's Mr. Marquis' take on a couple of the guys he'll be playing with.
"Thursday broke up last year," he said. "When Geoff Rickly plays Thursday songs in his set, you really hear them for the first time in that intimate way, where it's quieter and it's just Geoff's guitar and vocal. It's something special for the artist as well as the audience. The artist gets a different take or interpretation on their idea or their song. And the audience gets a more raw version. It's kind of cool.
"People know Vinnie Caruana from I Am The Avalanche and The Movielife. People still want to hear him. They love his personality and his story. And you get a little bit more inside the artist when they play these kinds of songs stripped down.
"The pace of the show is a little more relaxed and a little more comfy, as opposed to a rock show where there's a deadline and you gotta go and everyone's pushing and waiting. Here, you can take it slow and kind of talk about each song. A lot of these guys, including myself, have grown into the idea of doing songs in this manner and growing on their own with their solo material."
But that doesn't necessarily mean tonight's show will be sedate.
"I feel like we're going to be jamming," Mr. Marquis said. "We've already shot around the idea of doing some hotel-room recordings while we're on the tour. Maybe we'll get together and do some covers. I see us, as the tour progresses, jumping up on stage and singing along with one another's songs. I think we'll definitely have a collaborative part of the whole thing."
Might the evening even revert to its punk roots?
"I feel like it's open to spontaneity," Mr. Marquis said. "When you're in bands, it can be rigid sometime. With this tour, I feel there is the possibility of jamming, the possibility of having people jump in on each other's songs. I'm by no means ruling anything out."
The music starts at 5:30 p.m. at the Smiling Moose on East Carson Street. The cover is $15.
If you have a suggestion for something to do some evening, let us know about it and well see if we can get some of our friends to join you. Contact Dan Majors at email@example.com or 412-263-1456.This story originally appeared in The Pittsburgh Press. To log in or subscribe, go to: http://press.post-gazette.com/