“Barry Brusseau, Soft Kamikaze, and Mike Lee @ The Women’s Club, Longview, Washington, USA” by Richard F. Yates

Yesterday evening, Mariah and I hopped in the car and drove FOUR WHOLE BLOCKS from our house, all the way to the other side of Lake Sacajawea, to see some local folks play some music and recite some poetry. (Yep, even in a small town, like Longview, WA, we got SOME culture!—I suddenly feel like Sam the Eagle from The Muppets…)

The event went down in one of the smaller rooms at the Longview Women’s Club, (incidentally, the same club where two of the folks in Soft Kamikaze got married—and had a short, old, weird guy for a DJ—although I wasn’t QUITE as old then… Still short though…) Anyway, it’s an INTIMATE venue, with a seating capacity of MAYBE 40 people, if some folks sit on some other folks’s laps.

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What I found really cool, in addition to being so close to the performers, was this weird light that was pointed at the ceiling with some kind of filter or mechanism in it that kept changing the color of the room. It was a bit disorienting, but in a good way, and really set the mood. And a few times, a little bug (a moth maybe?) would fly through the light at just the right time and start to glow like a little firework going off, for just a second, or maybe a spirit orb flaring into existence, momentarily spurned into attempting to make contact out of a love of alternative music! (It was actually pretty neat to watch, the two or three times it happened.) (Sorry. That was an unnecessarily long tangent… Back to the show!)

The first performer out of the gate was Mike Lee, who did an acoustic set—just him and a guitar—but despite the “stripped down” nature of his set, he still managed to produce a seriously rockin’ vibe. His vocals are rough and gruff and reminded me of a few singers from the grunge era. (I hope he doesn’t take that as a negative judgement.) His delivery was emotive, but he could also deliver his lines quite quickly and adeptly, and his lyrics were interesting (with a definite, punky “RESIST” feel to them!) Both Mariah and I were impressed by his performance! (I’m not sure if Lee is also in a band or not, but if you see him doing an acoustic set anywhere, he’s definitely worth checking out—especially if you’re into folk-rock with an alternative-punk tinge to it. He name-checked Citizen Cope during his performance, and covered a pair of his songs, so that might be solid indicator of Lee’s overall tone…

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Next up were Soft Kamikaze, and three out of the four members of the band are folks that Mariah and I have known for decades. (It’s a well-established fact that the few times per years that Mariah and I make appearances at local concerts, it’s probably because Tyler and Hilarie invited us.) And, as always, Soft Kamikaze were a treat to watch. We’ve seen them perform several times, and we’ve never been disappointed. Their songs remind me of the classic 80’s new wave / post-punk style or maybe early 90’s shoe-gaze / dream-pop. Hilarie’s vocals are strong and her range is fantastic, and having three guitars playing around her really took this performance out of “acoustic” territory and gave it some real power! Again, like Lee’s set, this weren’t no boring, whiny, maudlin strum-along. It was ROCK AND ROLL, and a great time to watch!

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Last, Barry Brusseau (formerly of legendary Northwest punk band, The Jimmies!) favored us with a very cool poetry / synth / acoustic guitar performance, which was somehow (contradictorily) simple and profound, quirky and odd, but also touching and humorous. His voice is soft and low, almost like Leonard Cohen, and the synthesizer elements, which he created on the fly with a Korg mini-kit modular syth—I THINK it was a LittleBits system, but Barry couldn’t remember for sure—gave the songs and poems an unearthly, eerie quality, which I LOVED (because, you know… I love eerie, unearthly music.) This is the second time that Mariah and I have seen Barry perform his solo act, and it was (again) a fantastically enjoyable experience. (If it says anything, we came home with a new record BOTH times we’ve watched him perform!)

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Overall, even though it was a tiny venue, this was a great experience. I don’t think anyone got rich from it, at least not in an economical sense, but that wasn’t really the point. (At least, I don’t THINK that was the point.) This was a “get-together” event. The intimacy of the setting was unifying, and the sincerity of the performers and the feeling of “we’re in this together!” were undeniable. I may not have KNOWN everybody in that room, but we all shared something that you just can’t get from a stadium seat that’s two football fields away from the band you’re supposedly there to “see.” This was something unique.

Mariah and I always like supporting independent artists, AND it was fun just talking to folks before and after the show (about music and memories and all that good shit…) I saw and chattered with a few people who I’ve known for years, but who I rarely see or interact with anymore, and that was very cool… Mariah and I always wonder why we don’t go out more often and visit with people. We SAY we’re going to start going out more, and we always have fun when we DO go out, but when the next event comes along, we hem and hah, and then we think up some silly reason not to go—and we end up staying home… (We SHOULD be at the Highlander Festival in Kelso right now, but—nope…) We’ve been TRYING to be more social lately, but we’re just not very good at it…

Anyway, if there’s a moral to this story, it’s this: GO CHECK OUT A LOCAL SHOW! It might not be the same as a stadium full of screaming fans worshiping some superstar performer that you can almost see if you use binoculars—but I’d argue that the intimate shows where you have direct access to the performers are much cooler. The folks putting on the show are going to be happier to see you than the superstars are, who won’t even notice you in that massive crowd, and these quirky, intimate, little shows just FEEL more meaningful to me. It’s not just about the money, it’s about the connections that you make and the joy you get from the work!

This all makes me want to rent a tiny room somewhere and invite a bunch of folks to come watch me recite some poetry or tells some stories…maybe with some wonky, unearthly synth sounds burbling in the background… Now THAT sounds like a fun way to spend an evening, doesn’t it?

—Richard F. Yates
(Primitive Thoughtician and Supreme Bunny Lord of The P.E.W.)

P.S. – To check out some of Barry’s music, see his calendar of upcoming events, and get your hands on some of his merch, check out his website:  www.barrybrusseau.com
For Soft Kamikaze info, you can check out their FACEBOOK page!



About richardfyates

Compulsive creator of the bizarre and absurd. (Artist, writer, poet, provocateur...)
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