The Acoustic Basement is one of PropertyOfZack’s favorite additions to Warped Tour in recent years, which is just a small part of the reason why we’re so excited to be sponsoring its satellite tour that kicks off in just two days. There’s an interesting story behind the idea and creation of the Acoustic Basement though, so we thought it’d be a great idea for Editor-in-Chief Erik van Rheenen to speak with Brian Marquis to tell the story of the Basement. Check it all out below!
This is the story of the Acoustic Basement, but it doesn’t start in the blistering summer heat in the dog days of the Vans Warped Tour. The story of the Acoustic Basement starts with a young Brian Marquis in his own basement, waking up to his dad playing blues guitar at 5 o’clock in the morning.
“I grew up with a father who played the blues on the acoustic guitar and harmonica,” Marquis says. “I used to hate it sometimes, when he played really backwoods stuff. He’d wake me up at 5 a.m. playing the guitar next to my bedroom in the basement.”
As a baby, Marquis would mess around on the harmonica, — he actually focuses on playing it well, now— but it wasn’t until he was 11 that he took up guitar. It wasn’t really the music that allured him — at least not yet, anyways. It was just that, when posing with a guitar, 11-year-old Brian Marquis thought he looked so fucking cool.
“Me and a friend would just hold the guitar in front of the mirror and look badass,” Marquis says, recalling the memory with a laugh. “I took lessons, but I only wanted to play songs, so I stopped and would just try to play along with records or the radio.”
Fast forward to 2010. Marquis’ post-hardcore band, Therefore I Am, just broke up, and Marquis moved to Los Angeles for the scenery. Just before the break-up, Marquis began taking guitar lessons again, this time switching from electric guitar to acoustic. Once the band split and Marquis stopped touring full-time, he started making friends with the Warped Tour production folks.
During the waning years of Therefore I Am, Marquis realized he needed a creative outlet he could call his own. The band was a democracy: everything from tours to T-shirt designs — down to the simplest chord of a song — was carefully deliberated between the group’s members. Playing acoustic shows was a solitary pleasure for Marquis, and one he takes pride in. “It’s such a simple setup,” he says. “It’s just you and your guitar. There’s something so great in the simplicity of going anywhere with a bag to sing your songs and tell your story.”
Acoustic guitar in tow, Marquis set out to start his solo career, releasing his first acoustic EP, Snow Damage, in November of 2011. He talked to Kevin Lyman, founder of Warped Tour, and threw out his idea: an acoustic tent. Lyman wasn’t sold, since acoustic shows historically flopped on the Warped Tour. So Marquis asked some of his closest friends to go all-in with him on the idea.
Most didn’t take much convincing — Marquis says artists like Anthony Raneri and Vinnie Caruana, whose full bands also played the tour, jumped at the prospect — though Marquis admits it took some prodding to get Geoff Rickly to join the Acoustic Basement gang.
“I had to tell him, ‘come on dude, it’ll be fun,” Marquis says. “We ended up being on the same bus together, so it was great.”
Marquis confesses that he just brought up the right idea, with the right people, at the right time. Once he rounded up what would come to be known (half-jokingly) as the Acoustic Basement gang, Lyman agreed to make the Basement part of the tour.
“I’m so pumped that it worked. People would just pitch in and help set up the tent, and fans would just hang out in the shade for an intimate coffeehouse feel,” Marquis says. “We kind of had a joke going that we’d say ‘the Acoustic Basement is a gang’ because for most people who played it, it was just one guy — no merch guy, no agent, none of that. I mean, folk and blues is as punk rock as it gets.”
The days were long — “I busted my ass 12 hours a day, and I learned a ton about delegating tasks and pacing myself,” Marquis says proudly — but with two assistants and the rest of the Acoustic Basement gang helping out, Marquis turned the tent into a hit. He shrugs off his biggest problem (trying to prevent sound bleeding), chalking it up as just an inescapable facet of Warped Tour. The Basement expanded from one tent to two, and Marquis was stoked.
“There will always be a place on the Warped Tour for intimate singer-songwriters,” he says. “There’s always a need for that stripped down feeling. It’s a different kind of emotion: you have people screaming their hearts out on other stages, but the emotion on the acoustic stage is just as raw, but more subtle.”
Marquis shared a bus with Koji, and the two talked about how after the summer ended, maybe the Acoustic Basement would make for a cool tour, in the same vein as the Revival and Where’s The Band? Tours. The idea stuck. The lineup came down to two factors: who was most excited about it, and whose schedules worked. Even in the dead of winter, Marquis is excited to escape the parking lots and fields of Warped Tour and bring the Acoustic Basement, well, back to the basement.
“I really can’t wait to get out there and play clubs instead of 110 degree fields,” Marquis laughs. “And economically, it’s easier to travel with one person and a guitar.”
February is a big month for the Acoustic Basement. Not only are Marquis, Koji, Caruana, Rickly, and A Loss For Words hitting the road one more time together, but Marquis is spilling over with anticipation to announce 2013’s Acoustic Basement lineup on Feb. 15. He can’t name names (yet), but he says, “There’s a lot of new blood this year. It’s definitely going to be a full tent again.”
As for the old guard? Well, the Acoustic Basement gang is shorter on numbers this February, but Marquis can’t wait to get the gang back together for their run of shows.
“There’s no ego, and there’s no competition between the guys on tour. Everyone appreciates the intimacy of playing acoustically,” Marquis says. “And it’s just a great, great thing.”
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