Bushwick Book Club Seattle heads to Ballard for next performance
By Lindsay Peyton
The Bushwick Book Club Seattle’s next stop will be in Ballard, bringing music inspired by Katherine Dunn’s novel “Geek Love” to the stage at Tractor Tavern. The event is slated for 7:30 p.m. on Sunday, April 22 at the venue, located at 5213 Ballard Ave NW.
Adventures in combining songwriting and literature are the club’s specialty. Since the Seattle chapter started in 2010, the group has hosted more than 400 performers, debuting original music inspired by books.
Executive director Geoff Larson founded the group in 2010, after he saw the original Bushwick Book Club in New York, which was founded by songwriter Susan Hwang.
“The energy in the room was electric,” Larson recalled. “That was the coolest thing I saw while I was living in New York. Everybody was very focused and paying attention. You don’t see that very often with local songwriters and an audience.”
He decided to bring the concept to Seattle. For the first event, he challenged local songwriters to create pieces inspired by Kurt Vonnegut’s “Slaughterhouse Five.”
“I just picked my favorite book to do for the first one,” Larson said. “It was a huge success.”
Songwriters also share their process with the audience, how they showcase the influence of the selected literature in their songs.
The Bushwick Book Club Seattle partners with local authors as well. “It’s a great way to bring books and music to the forefront,” Larson said. “Some people go because of the book, and sometimes they go because they are fans of the club itself.”
The club has a number of core members and staff who live on the west side, including Sean Morse, Eric Lane Barnes, Nick Droz, art director Michael Wallenfels, all West Seattle residents, and producer and audio engineer Moe Provencher from Ballard.
Bushwick hosts about eight events each year, all open to the public. “We created such a cool community,” Larson said.
The club provides a platform to support musicians and authors—and a space for audiences to enjoy both.
The organization also seeks to build the next generation of musicians and readers. The nonprofit’s “Songwriting Through Young Literature Education” (STYLE) program works with schools to help students write their own songs inspired by literature.
Wallenfels has been a long-time member of the group. “Personally I loved the idea as a reader and as a musician,” he said. “Really, getting people out of the house and exposed to new books and musicians in their city - what could be better?”
He enjoys the songwriting exercise, as it encourages him to break with old rules and habits. As an audience member, he enjoys making reading, writing and books into a group experience, instead of a solitary exercise.
“It says that books still matter, that books inspire people, that books are a shared experience, that books are living documents with a diversity of meanings,” Wallenfels said.
He is looking forward to the upcoming Geek Love event.
“Geek Love is a story that sticks with you forever,” he said. “It's strange, epic, and one of those books that knows exactly what it is from the very first page. People should see the Geek Love show for many reasons - it's packed with talented musicians, it's a celebration of music and literature, and the soundtrack is songs that you may never have the chance to hear again.”
For more information, visit thebushwickbookclubseattle.com.