Acoustic fest: ‘No amps allowed’
July 24, 2009
If song lyrics are any indication, life isn’t easy for acoustic musicians. Whether covering Woody Guthrie ballads or stripping down pop songs Britney Spears’ "Womanizer," anyone? guitarists often sound most tender, and tortured, when they unplug amps.
And for good reason, said Tyler Forsberg, co-founder of the Acoustic All-Star Music Festival, which will be at the Star Bar Saturday, Aug. 1 and Sunday, Aug. 2. Nearly 20 musicians are slated to play half-hour sets beginning at 8 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are $7 for one show and $12 for both days.
Forsberg and girlfriend Melody Pulsipher started the acoustic festival, now in its second year, to give emerging and established performers a venue. Performers come from all over the state, including Park City. The blues/rock band Muhaw, which is from Summit County, is scheduled to play.
"It’s much tougher for acoustic musicians," Forsberg said Wednesday. "Acoustic [is] a bit more intimate. People have to pay more attention."
Forsberg would know. Before playing acoustic gigs with Pulsipher, Forsberg was a drummer for Utah-based rock bands Blind Iris and Royal Bliss. His start in music is a familiar story: He started young and played in the percussion section of his middle school band. high school, he wanted to be a drummer in a rock band.
It wasn’t until years later that he tossed his drum sticks into the metaphorical mosh pit and bought a guitar.
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At the same time, Pulsipher earned a reputation at open-microphone venues in Logan, Utah, as a guitarist with a powerful voice and inventive songwriting vis-à-vis Sarah McLachlan.
"She inspired me to play guitar," Forsberg admitted. "I wanted to be her opening act." Her songs were radio-ready, Forsberg explained, with infectious hooks. Acoustic music, it seemed, was again gaining popularity.
The couple began playing sets together in Salt Lake City and, in 2008, began the Acoustic All-Stars. Knee-deep in writing and recording an album together, the couple will take the stage Saturday at 11 p.m.
But the festival isn’t about any one performer, Forsberg said. The acts span a variety of genres: jazz/blues, alternative, folk and country. Fosrberg makes a point of asking musicians to "keep it authentic." "No amps," he explained.
It’s the virtuosity and enthusiasm of musicians that really sells it. "We feel like we’ve found some of the most talented musicians Utah has to offer," he added. "These aren’t people who are sitting in their basements with pipe dreams."
But Pulsipher never expected to book nationally known artists. Instead, the All-Stars festival gives working musicians the chance to share audiences, and to spark ideas into action with other musicians. A songwriter since 13, Pulsipher admires the simplicity of acoustic tunes. "When you’re in a band, that’s great, but when you play acoustic you don’t have anything to hide behind," she said.
Pulsipher has grown as a musician in the last year, she noted, and so has the festival. "Last year, we worried too much about what it was going to be," she said. "It was kind of like a bad wedding where you expect everything to be perfect."
This year, Pulsipher is more relaxed, at ease with the talent that will take the stage. "It’s all about the music," she said.
The Acoustic All-Stars Festival is Aug. 1 and 2 at Star Bar. Single-day tickets are $7. For more information, visit http://www.myspace.com/pcacoustic .