Sitting with my back to a room full of lovely people on Sunday night in Sheffield, I was picturing them smiling. I wanted to turn around and look at someone and smile back, and I wanted to whisper "How ace is that?!" so I could feel a bit less alone (or noticeable) in my wide-eyed amazement. I mean, you know, I've been to a lot of amazing popshows but every single moment on Sunday night was quietly monumental, an affirmation of simplicity.
'An acoustic night' is not a description that would make me drop everything and run to see a show. 'An acoustic guitar and bleeps' is a slightly more appealing prospect but then it wasn't even an accurate description for that night (it's a long story). The thing is, I am normally slightly scared of acoustic performances because of their nakedness. I get nervous on the artist's behalf because I can't possibly imagine how anyone can be so bold as to get up and play without amplification and let themselves be so utterly exposed. I admire it but I don't enjoy it. That's why I was so surprised at the Red Deer on Sunday: I felt elated and brilliant. No-one was dancing, there was no noise to hide your drunkness behind, but it was as absorbing as I imagine watching the Earth from space must be - and just as surprising.
Not that I wasn't expecting to enjoy seeing Pete, Steve Jam on Bread, Numberdan and Frankie Machine - I couldn't wait. But it was that element of surprise that blew me away. Four people turn up with some really pretty songs and they play them and they don't even realise how beautiful they look or how mesmerising, moving and luminous they sound. They often apologise for being rubbish but all we witness is relentless charm. There is no self-indulgence in these acoustic pop songs, they are not precious. They are fragile and radiant and the unexpected magic is in the way the voice breaks or the way the eyes shyly travel around the room or down to the floor.
A wise old man once said that 'acoustic' is not a genre but a mode of arrangement and he was right. I am narrow-minded and I haven't got time for a lot of things but I've always got time for indiepop and acoustic indiepop breaks a lot of stupid rules that shouldn't exist anyway and, boy, am I glad it does.
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