By CLAIR PHILLIPS
UW News Lab
I’ll bet when you think of book clubs, you imagine a group of middle aged Seattle women sitting around sipping tea, munching crackers and chit-chatting. You might be wrong – at least, about one group.
Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland was the inspiration for 11 book club member/musicians’ sets performed throughout the evening to a packed house.
Geoff Larsen, curator of the club and emcee for the evening, said members of the club simply “read a book and write a song inspired by the book.”
The Fremont Abbey offered a unique and casual setting in the upstairs of the venue complete with high ceilings and fold-out chairs. Many attendees took advantage of the elaborate baked good table and beverages offered downstairs.
After drawing names for the order of their appearance, musicians entered stage to describe the meaning or inspiration behind the original song they were to perform. Some performers took the various characters from Alice in Wonderland as inspiration, while others sang about their overall impression of the novel, and a few simply made up characters. Hey, it’s Wonderland, why not?
Acoustic guitars were the main accompaniment for most songs, but other instruments like the harmonica, bass, violin, drums and accordion made an appearance.
There were roughly 175 people in attendance and the performances hailed an intimate yet casual feel. Songs ranged in their genre throughout the evening from bluegrass to alternative.
Wes Weddell, a musician/member of the club since day one, stole the crowd with his invented character, Tommy Treadmill. His introduction alone had the crowd roaring. His song garnered sympathy for Tommy, a poor child who went down the rabbit hole after Alice, left to deal with all the characters Alice had upset and having to be second-best.
Weddell has been around Seattle writing songs for about 10 years and has only missed about three of the clubs meetings for the last year and a half.
He described the musicians as “a revolving door of people, same and different each month.”
The members of the club meet once a month for their public performance. Levi Fuller, a fourth-time book club performer, recalls past books he has enjoyed like The Time Traveler’s Wife and The Shining.
For those doubting the readership among the club, Fuller says, “I can’t imagine anyone not reading the book.”
Larsen is responsible for bringing the Bushwick Book Club to Seattle from its origin in Brooklyn. There are only a handful of similar clubs throughout the country, Larsen said.
As a jazz musician himself, Larsen is responsible for wrangling the book club musicians. He started the club with his own musician friends, and through hearsay and the club’s notoriety, he has attracted many musicians. He stressed that you don’t have to be a professional to join in.
The club’s next performance will provide original music inspired by Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice and will take place on Feb. 14 at 8 p.m. at the Erickson Theatre at Seattle Central Community College in Capitol Hill.
For more information on the club and to order tickets (available soon), visit thebushwickbookclubseattle.com. For more information on the Fremont Abbey Arts Center, Upcoming Events and weekly classes visit: fremontabbey.org or facebook.com/fremontabbey.
(CLAIR PHILLIPS is a student in the University of Washington Department of Communication News Laboratory.)