They don’t happen all the time, but it’s not their spontaneity that fully makes them special. It’s not having a rehearsed set. It’s not having all the flashy lights or disco balls or bubbles. It’s not having an electric guitar that sings through the amps and speakers into the crowd. It’s not having a bass or drums vibrate through your body and match the beating of your heart.
Don’t get me wrong, those things are all great, but when a song is played with a simple acoustic guitar it’s like stripping the song down to it’s soul.
Over the last week I’ve had the privilege of seeing two aftershows. The first was in New Hampshire. There was a group of us down on the beach – toes in the cool sand, the sound of the ocean behind us – as the melody of each song floated through the starry night.
The second one was in Boston. This time there was a group of us crowded around a pair of trashcans, a makeshift stage, as the sounds of the city echoed around us and blended with each song.
That’s the thing about aftershows. You never know where you’re going to end up or what’s going to happen. It could be anywhere from a back alley by the bus to the sidewalk to the beach. It’s spontaneous with none of the glamor of a rehearsed show.
There’s something to be said for a song played with nothing but a guitar. It may be simple, but it’s also beautiful.