Rock Today

Rock Today


Unveiling the Hoekstra Gibbs Acoustic Tour 2024 

It’s a very pleasant 18 degrees Celsius in Bogotá today. Known as the melting pot of Colombia, this capital city is where all cultures from different regions of the country have a place. There’s simply a sense of inclusivity, togetherness and community. What also unites its residents is their love for music, with Bogotá having a reputation for having some of the most fiercely passionate fans within the rock and metal community. Tonight, heavy metal band Accept will be performing at the Royal Center in support of their new album Humanoid. Part of a massive South American tour, an incredibly exciting fact about this run of shows is that the band have welcomed Joel Hoekstra as touring guitarist deputising for Phil Shouse. It’s ahead of tonight’s show that we catch up with the Whitesnake and Trans Siberian Orchestra guitarist though interestingly not to talk about Accept. Instead we’re here to talk about what’s coming next which is another acoustic tour of the UK with Poison and Devil City Angels’ Brandon Gibbs. Following a hugely successful UK tour in 2023, Joel and Brad have decided to return for a massive 12 dates throughout May and June – and what an incredible experience this promises to be. There’s something very special and hugely powerful about a stripped down acoustic performance in an intimate venue and it’s ability to connect so emotively with the audience, and alongside a massive sense of fun, this is exactly what a Hoekstra-Gibbs show is all about. A busy schedule means that it’s been difficult for Joel to leave the confines of his hotel room but of course he has a huge smile and we are given the warmest of welcomes. We make ourselves comfortable and our conversation begins…    

Hoekstra Gibbs Acoustic Tour 2024

Hoekstra Gibbs Acoustic Tour 2024

Heading back to the UK

Joel Hoekstra & Brandon Gibbs

Joel Hoekstra & Brandon Gibbs

The month of May sees you returning to the UK and Ireland with Brandon Gibbs to complete a 10 date tour. Before we specifically talk about these shows, let’s go right back to the beginning. When did you first meet Brandon and how did this incredible partnership come about?

I think it was maybe 2016 on the Monsters of Rock Cruise and they had scheduled a meet and greet with us together on one of the resort islands. I go out on that Monsters of Rock Cruise every year and I never leave the boat! (Laughs!) So they put me and Brandon together for that and they were playing some of his music and some of my music, he seemed like a cool guy and we just kind of made friends really quickly. It wasn’t too long after that when he hit me up saying he does acoustic shows and sometimes brings a second player and would I be into it. I said “Sure!”. It was something to do just for fun between Whitesnake tours and Trans Siberian Orchestra commitments and just whenever there was free time. He’s a very nice guy, a very talented guy and we get on great. The set just started drawing up demand because people could come to a smaller show and it draws the diehards essentially, the people who really care about me from Whitesnake or Trans-Siberian Orchestra, which if you came to one of those shows you may or may not have a chance to say hello. So I suppose there’s a certain charm to knowing that you’re going to go and see that person in a bar where there’s 150 people and you get a chance to hang a bit! It’s good to let the fans know how much you appreciate their support. You get the people who really care about you at the shows and that’s what I dig, especially these UK shows. We did this tour last year and it was just awesome. For me, as silly as it sounds, you play big shows and with big acts but to have it just be my name on the bill with Brandon’s, and you kind of wonder ‘is anybody actually going to show up?’ (Laughs!) and when they do it just feels magical! You realise that you actually have people who have been following what you’ve been doing and that just feels great. This is built on a good friendship - Brandon and I are good friends. He’s a super easy guy and when we travel it’s just the two of us - no crew and no band. We plug-in, the sound check takes 10 minutes and we play his music, my music, the music of the bands that we’ve been a part of and even some covers. It’s just a fun gig for the diehards and then you get to meet everybody afterwards which is cool!

People are used to seeing you mainly with an electric guitar. How much of a role does the acoustic guitar play for you on a day-to-day basis

There was a period when it was a lot more. Lately it’s only when I do the Brandon shows or my set on the Monsters of Rock Cruise. I took classical lessons for a couple of years in a proper school with classical guitar. Of course, I have an acoustic album that I put out (2008’s 13 Acoustic Songs – Ed). I hadn’t planned on doing an acoustic album, that was just stuff that I was sitting around and playing on my sofa and I just thought I should probably record it otherwise I’m going to forget it someday and I would have no idea how to play this stuff that I’ve written. So that’s why I recorded that acoustic album of mine. Some of that stuff is part of my acoustic set on the Monsters of Rock Cruise every year which is kind of neat as it’s the only place where I ever play that material live. I love playing acoustic because you can get away with more chordal stuff. Something I really dig about playing rhythm guitar is different inversions. If you play some kinds of chords with a lot of distortion on the electric guitar it sounds like crap. If you play it clean or on an acoustic it sounds magical. There is definitely an advantage to playing acoustic with that. Chordally and rhythmically you can do stuff that you can’t with a heavily distorted guitar. Is it convenient for shredding? No. I’d like to think of some of it still translates and I do have a moment during the show where I have an unaccompanied solo, a little bit of shred if you will, and Brandon has something similar although his is more of a blues-based style. He’s more kind of slow-hand bluesy but it works really well. He’s really into playing foundation chords and foundation rhythm, and I’m into overdub rhythm and playing the fancy inversions. I’m into the fancier solos and he’s into the simple solos. We pair up kind of naturally. I don’t really enjoy singing lead. He has me doing a little bit of it in the show just to force my hand at it but I do really enjoy singing background vocals a lot, and he enjoys singing lead. Our skill sets just fit together nicely.  

I would just like to explore with you the concept of acoustic guitar driven music. Some of the most powerful and emotive shows I’ve experienced are those where there is simply one or two people giving a stripped back acoustic performance, where there are moments of sheer power and also where you could hear a pin drop. What we have with Hoekstra Gibbs is absolutely that impact. Would you agree with that philosophy, and also which acoustic guitar artists have you drawn inspiration on throughout your career? 

I think it’s kind of cool just to hear the songs in a different light. For me, it’s one of the only outlets I have to play the Joel Hoekstra 13 stuff and for Brad it’s an opportunity to play some of his music. The biggest thing I think is honestly having that relationship with the fans. That’s the coolest thing about it. That’s the difference. It’s almost like we just plugged in in your living room or something. We are playing in these intimate venues for, like I said, 150 people or something like that and it’s such a big difference to seeing somebody on an arena stage. As far as acoustic artists that I’ve enjoyed, I’ve listened to acoustic players my whole life. There’s a long list, and I always liked, even when I was younger, when the rock guys put a bit of that into their style, whether it be Randy Rhoads when he did Dee with Ozzy and his classical work on Diary Of A Madman which is a quote of Leo Brouwer piece for those that don’t know. And definitely Rick Emmett from Triumph when he was incorporating the classical playing and had acoustic pieces on the records like Midsummer’s Daydream on Thunder Seven. Such a cool piece! And the neoclassical guys like Yngwie Malmsteen, All the way to the great players out there nowadays like Tommy Emmanuel who is just so mindbogglingly proficient on guitar. There’s a line on guitar when you can say ‘Well, nobody is the best in the world, it’s all just apples and oranges’, but then you watch Tommy Emmanuel play for a bit and you can say ‘Well, okay he’s probably the best in the world!’ (Laughs!) He’s unreal man! It’s like an extension of his body! He’s such an incredible player and I have so much admiration for him, he’s unreal. 

Well, getting back to this incredible partnership, as Hoekstra/Gibbs, and you mentioned 2016, you’ve actually been performing together for about seven or eight years now, and it’s wonderful to see how this has grown. My understanding is that you expected that these shows perhaps for reasons of simplicity would stay within the US but the demand from fans from around the world for international touring has been immense. What were your expectations and how does it feel to see the love for this partnership on such a huge scale? 

The coolest thing about it is that it’s all unexpected. We just got together to do these in our spare time and have a little fun, and it’s something that started to draw people. We were like ‘Whoa! People are actually turning up!’, and then, like you said, to have any type of international interest is like ‘What! Really!?’. We went to the UK last year with no expectations and it ended up being this magical experience. We didn’t have a one bad show. And every show there are people who are the diehards, and like I said, the best fans come out to these – the people who really care. So you want to give back to them, and it’s just kind of mind blowing to be honest. So we toured the UK, and then we did Europe last year and has even been some talk about Europe and of course coming back to the UK this year and then doing some more shows in the US. And we’ve been expanding when we’ve been playing in the US as well, we’re going to some different places this year. We have a run in Colorado that’s booked and I’m trying to do a run in Florida later in the year. It’s just fun and we have no delusions of grandeur. It’s a quality show to see. If I saw it I’d be entertained because it’s a nice variety, it’s organic and it’s real. It’s something we would probably do for free. Just to have it grow like that is kinda neat, you know? It’s not like we’re angling for something commercially. We are just two guys plugging in our acoustic guitars and having a good time and it’s a simple as that.

The Hoekstra/Gibbs shows comprise of the most amazing songs throughout your respective. Does it also include some original music that you’ve both written?

We are just getting the ball rolling on that. To put out some music that we’ve actually written together would be a nice step I suppose. In a way it’s kind of been charming because it shows how little calculated this has been that we haven’t even released music together or anything like that. It’s just something where we just enjoy playing the shows. But we are starting to get down to that. We really should release something together so we do have a song that’s in the works right now. Maybe that will be ready by the UK tour, I’m not sure.

Sounds exciting! When we look at the heritage of you both as amazing musicians and your respective back catalogues, how do you decide a set list for a Hoekstra Gibbs show?

The set list is always evolving and heavily down to just Brandon calling stuff. Like if there is certain stuff that we’ve done before and he calls it or wants to do it we just do it. I’m pretty easy-going with that stuff. I roll with what’s on the set, we do whatever is fun, and sometimes you’ve got to read the room. Obviously, it would be great to play all the originals but since I’m not playing Whitesnake currently I enjoy playing Whitesnake stuff just as much. It gives people the chance to hear some Whitesnake material played live in some type of setting, and people are hungry to hear it. Everything we do is just a nice balance between what people would want to hear and what we want to do. It’s not entirely self-serving, some of the stuff is in there for the fans – you are there to entertain people and it’s about them.

Just focusing on you for a moment, within these acoustic shows you still manage to take the time to wow the audiences with your virtuosity and mesmerising solo sections. You mentioned earlier how much you enjoy the more complex guitar elements and fancy inversions but to what extent is there part of you that thinks it’s important for you to give a performance for the guitarists out there?

I’ve been at this a while and I think it just comes down to how I have my daily tasks on hand all the time that keep me on the guitar and keep me playing. I go about it in a very workman-like manner, knowing what needs to be done, whether that be recording an album, writing an album, playing a session for someone, teaching, playing a set, going and reviewing a set – whatever needs to be done in a day is what keeps me going on guitar. There’s always going to be some kind of bar that someone is going to have as to whether or not you are a good guitarist. I don’t really concern myself with it a ton, whether there’s a guitarist there and I’m impressing them. I’m more comfortable just knowing I am what I am. I go about it secure knowing that I’ve put a lot of effort and time on the guitar and I’ve built a career, and I also have no delusions of grandeur with that. I don’t expect people to leave going ‘That’s the best guitarist in the world’ or any kind of crap like that. I just want to go about doing what I do and then hopefully people evaluate your skill level appropriately. Sure, it sucks if you read that someone has said that you suck or something like that. That’s always like ‘Really!? I’ve been playing my whole life and I suck in your eyes?’ but that being said, there’s plenty of times I agree with them. My students will often say ‘Oh, I feel terrible and I’m not getting any better’ and I tell them ‘You know what, that feeling will never go away – there’s no point of arrival’. It’s not like you can play guitar in your lifetime and have some point where you go ‘I’m there!’. Music is infinite and there’s always something you can’t do or maybe wish you could do better. I wish I was so much better on guitar than I am. I guess the concept is simply that I’d like to be a lot better and I don’t worry too much about impressing the guitarists. I worry more about just being a professional and that helps keep me kind of grounded. You can lose track of it if you believe your own hype. People can fall into that hole trap of hearing people telling them that they’re great. It’s more about ‘Did you put in the work every day?’.

And of course, a really wonderful quality about these shows is that they see you very much as a vocalist as well as a guitarist. I think it’s another incredible way for you to express yourself as an artist and also for fans to see that other side of you too. You mentioned that lead vocals is perhaps something you aren’t completely comfortable with but how does it feel to be stood behind the mic stand? You certainly look incredible comfortable!

I’ve done it in the past. When I was in my bands when I was younger playing in bars, on occasion I would sing some of the stuff that I was comfortable singing and I do it a bit on the Monsters of Rock Cruise in my acoustic set. I have certain things that I’m willing to go out and sing and then there’s other stuff that isn’t in my wheelhouse. I definitely enjoy participating as a backing vocalist in the bands I’m in. One of the more interesting things about my story when I was younger was I kind of hung out with the thrashers, the real heavy-metal guys. They were my better friends than the hair metal guys. When I was a teenager, I had short hair of all things and I was in the hairband scene and I was a little bit shorter, maybe 5 foot 5, when I was in my first band so I didn’t fit in and the hairband guys dissed me because they thought ‘This guy he doesn’t look the part’. So I was like ‘Fuck you!’ and I made friends with the thrashers. One of my best friends was a thrash guitar player and they needed a singer so I said “I’ll give it a go”. So I joined his band only as a singer, not playing guitar. That was an interesting experience and I was actually gigging with them and doing live shows and one of the guys in our local scene, Dan Donegan, went on to form Disturbed, and of course they are huge. At one point Dan had expressed interest to me in coming down and auditioning to become the singer in Disturbed when they were forming, and today that is just such an hilarious thought! They ended up with David Draiman who is an amazing singer and I’d like say to Dan “I could’ve screwed the whole thing up!” (Laughs!) They’ve gone onto such huge stardom and I’m really happy for those guys. They are wonderful guys and Dan always was a good guy, even back then when we were in our local scene, and he is still a great guy even now. But yes, that’s something I did: sing in a thrash band of all things!

I think another incredible quality that you and Brandon bring to the shows is the connections you make directly with fans both on and off stage. And it was really interesting to hear what you said earlier about having opportunity to hang out and you recognise the fans as being the diehard fans. Also on this tour your offering VIP meet and greet experiences ahead of the show and where possible mixing with fans after the show. It seems to me that you’re putting the fans at the very heart of the forthcoming UK tour. To what extent do you think that’s a fair thing to say?

Yes, at the end of the day that’s the biggest thing. When people ask me if like the arenas or the small gigs, realistically it’s disingenuous when people who play arenas say that they prefer the intimate gigs. If they only got their career to a level where they were only playing intimate gigs they’d be cursing their lives going ‘How come I never got to be somebody and play in arenas?’. I love the big gigs and I love the fact that I’ve been able to have some gigs where I’ve been able to play for larger crowds. That’s amazing! However, I completely see the charm in stripping it down to the people who actually give a crap about who you are and your music and they actually start to follow you and keep in touch with you online. Those are the people that come to the shows and I think it’s really important on many levels to show that you actually notice that and you care. It’s what these tours are largely about for me – connecting with those people – and I think that’s a proper way to build a career. If you want to make a living playing music you have to understand that it works both ways. You have to show appreciation to the people who follow you and not just walk around with a big head and being full of yourself thinking you are ‘all that and a bag of chips’. None of us are! We’re just people who learned to play instruments. The rockstar thing is an illusion at the end of the day. So I think it’s cool to be able to get to that level where you can be in a small pub and you can just talk to somebody and say ‘Hey man, how’s it going?’, and have a one on one discussion. The goal for me was always to be a pro guitarist and never be a rockstar.

Our closing thoughts...

As our conversation draws to a close, we reflect on what a special run of shows these promise to be. Two absolute icons from the world of rock coming together to play for the diehard fans in the most intimate of settings. It is with the highest recommendation is that we invite you to buy a ticket. Head over to and, and in the meantime get a flavour of what’s to come on this incredible tour by checking out the fan filmed footage below. 

Rock Today
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