“The quietest moments in concerts can be the most powerful,” reflects Glaswegian acoustic instrumentalist RM Hubbert, a man whose performances of virtuoso solo guitar and confessional conversation are designed for close attention, “although there was a saying I once heard, about the point when ‘you can’t hear people listening’ when it only takes one or two people talking to make it seem like nobody’s paying attention.”
Working musicians like Hubbert cannot, of course, pick and choose which environment they play in, and have to adapt their set to suit. He mentions his most recent concert, a rowdy Friday night supporting Bill Wells and Aidan Moffat in Perth, and says it was a lot of fun.
But take it from the rest of us: if you’re one of those people who think you’ve paid your money so you get to be as loud as you want, or that if you don’t really like the band you might as well catch up with the gossip, here’s a polite request: shut up, get out and never come to a gig again.
Hubbert is broadly in agreement, which is why he’s co-curating (alongside Alun Woodward of host venue Platform and Howard Monk of London-based promoters and festival originators The Local) the first ever edition of Shhhh… in Scotland.
“It’s a festival of quiet music, where the audience are actively encouraged to tell other people to shut up if they’re talking,” he explains. Far from being a recipe for scuffles breaking out “you get this weird communal thing going on where people are very quiet and attentive, which makes for a very intense experience”.
The objective isn’t to force the musicians to play quiet songs, rather to allow the audience to focus on what’s happening, but Hubbert believes volume can be an artistic statement in itself.
“I’m actually not a big fan of acoustic music,” he says. “I grew up listening to Black Flag and Dinosaur Jr and Sonic Youth, but one of the reasons I started playing acoustic music myself is that it places restraints on what you’re doing, it forces you to be more imaginative. [Acts at Shhhh… like] Gravenhurst, Laura J Martin and Wounded Knee do this extremely well, using a limited palette to find something unique and beautiful.”
Will it work in Glasgow, where people famously like to voice their appreciation loudly? “I think audiences can be underestimated,” he laughs. “I think everyone who comes along will understand what we’re trying to do. It was interesting from a social interaction point of view, just watching the crowd when I wasn’t playing at the last one in London. It ended up being quite late when I went on and people were pretty drunk, but it still worked.”
• The Shhhh… Festival is at Platform in Easterhouse, Glasgow, this Saturday. www.platform-online.co.uk