PICTURED: Catch Switchfoot at the Bank of America Performing Arts Center on Nov. 7.
California alternative rock outfit Switchfoot needed to change up its live show, so it reimagined its catalog as acoustic songs for “The Fantastic Traveling Music Show: An Evening of Songs and Stories.”
Little did they know that the tour, which launched in October, would evoke emotions unmatched on other jaunts, according to drummer Chad Butler.
“When fans request a song, we ask them to tell us why they wanted to hear that song,” Butler says via telephone from San Diego airport. “We’ve heard really incredible stories about why they’ve personally connected with the songs over the years. Maybe the song got them through a hard time, or they lost a loved one, or they made a big decision in their life. For us, we just try to make honest music and that resonates with people. When the songs are very personal, they become universal. There are some really emotional moments during the shows. There are a lot of laughs and tears and everything in between. It’s a beautiful evening each night.”
The show is in two parts: acoustic and plugged in — with no opening act.
“Typically, a Switchfoot show would have an opener or two, and then we’d come out and play for a couple hours,” Butler says. “This is a totally different thing. We do two sets each night and there are no other bands. The acoustic set is first, then an intermission and then the full electric show.”
Fans can request songs either via bit.ly/35WUi9n or with cards available at the gigs. Butler has a simple answer for the most challenging songs he’s been asked to play.
“The songs we don’t know,” he answers with a laugh. “Seriously, it’s been really fun to reimagine a bunch of the older songs we don’t often play and work them into an acoustic setting. It’s very different than our typical tour. We’ve had 11 studio albums and quite a few songs to choose from. We’ve been touring together for 20 years and a lot of these fans have been with us for a long time. Some fans are calling out songs from 10 to 15 years ago.”
When Switchfoot is requested to play songs it doesn’t know, it just makes do to make fans happy. The choices range from tracks from the new album, Native Tongue, to deep cuts that weren’t singles.
“We have an in-the-moment way figured out to play it,” Butler says. “For example, if the song is written on the piano, Jon [Foreman, singer] may play it on a ukulele. We figure it out as we go. It’s a very interactive show with the crowd.”
Butler says now was the time for this tour because Switchfoot needs to keep challenging itself to keep things fresh and interesting.
“We’ve done so many rock shows over the years,” he says. “Plugging in the electric guitar and the big rock drums start to become routine if we’re not pushing ourselves to reinvent the music and find new ways to perform. We have a bunch of new instruments on this tour. Our bass player learned how to play the upright bass for this tour. Our singer Jon learned ukulele. I built a mini drum set out of kids’ toys. We’re doing all kinds of stuff to fit the song and fit the more stripped-down acoustic setting.”
The concerts are also fundraisers for Food for the Hungry, whose work Switchfoot witnessed first-hand during a trip to Bangladesh’s poor villages.
“We want to do more than sing about hope,” Butler says. “We want to make a change in the world and partner with our audiences to do something tangible.”
“We’re always helping children,” he continues. “We really believe investing in the next generation is important. Food for the Hungry works with kids in some of the poorest places all over the world. They help kids get access to clean water, nutritious food and education. It’s changing the entire village. The effects are exponential. Our audience is taking that first step in doing something to change the world.”
Switchfoot performs on Thursday, Nov. 7, at 7:30 p.m. at the Bank of America Performing Arts Center, 2100 E. Thousand Oaks Blvd. For tickets and more information, call 805-449-2787 or visit bapacthousandoaks.com.