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Sun, 06 Jul 2008

Acoustic Set

I really hated MTV's Unplugged series.What was the point, I thought, of taking someone like The Cure who's normal oevre was crafted layers of distorted electric guitar, synth, vocals and drums and sucking all the life out of it? Turning it into muzak! ... wimpy nonsense for non-music people! And no, I wouldn't listen to people who said that stripping things back revealed the beauty behind the thing. What it revealed was that some people will do anything for a buck and others just didn't get it. Commercially it was a great success of course, still might be for all I know.

And so I was mildly horrified to turn up for a night of the iTunes festival in Berlin ... a night featuring take-no-prisoners guitar rock from locals Jennifer Rostock and Essex's own, The Subways ... to discover that The Subways drummer, Josh, was sick, and that the remaining two, Billy and Charlotte, were going to do an 'acoustic set'. Yikes!

Jennifer Rostock is a five piece with Jennifer (?) doing the vocals and a lot of stage coverage. The locals are into to them straight away but the earlier songs smack too much for me of the Soviet-style pomp rock, with lots of overblown musical statements and a fair bit of histrionics from the singer as well. At the end of the set though we had some nice high-energy rock that set most feet moving.

Then a gap while the stage people set up for The Subways. I was hoping to catch a word with them and thought I would if they appeared in the public area (which Jennifer Rostock did). I thought, if they were closeted backstage there was a good chance they'd be working on what they were going to do and wouldn't be particularly thrilled to see me. They didn't appear outside and so after a beer on the terrace by the river,I went back in.

Not completely acoustic was the first good news. Charlotte's bass guitar and amp were onstage plus an acoustic guitar and chair for Billy. A Swiss girl asked me what they were like and I said 'who knows?! normally they rock more than somewhat'. They were onstage as kids and their combination of rocking seriously and pleasant innocence (no fake world-weary cynicism) drew a lot of fans to them - kids and adults. A few years later, they've been around the block a few times but the patina remains much the same, and the idea too, although the actual music is beginning to get more complex and a few of these sorts of songs will appear on the next album due sometime this year.

The actual gig wasn't too bad. It was, as it had to be, different. Billy sat and played and sang and yelled and Charlotte danced about doing her bass lines and yowling the odd line or two into her mic. She looked cute as a button as usual. And no-one walked out - in fact it was a very supportive audience - more power to them.

And so, The Subways semi-unplugged wasn't too bad. But this wasn't a gimmick: It was an effort to provide some sort of show and where the difficulty of the conditions created both a little danger onstage and quite a lot of involvement off it.

Kudos to the people at Radial System V for creating a nice atmosphere for the festival as well. (thunderfinger)

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