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Book City: Bushwick Book Club pulls music from prose

Geoff Larson is equal parts reader and musician, which is what inspired him to start Seattle's most creative book club.
Geoff Larson, founder of Bushwick Book Club.

Geoff Larson, founder of Bushwick Book Club. Photo: Wade Trenbeath

Geoff Larson started the Seattle chapter of Bushwick Book Club in 2010. An upright bass major at Western Washington University, Larson was seduced by the thought of joining with other musicians to share his love for books, music and performance in one creative blast. You can see the Bushwick Book Club perform Howard Zinn’s “A People's History Of The United States” this Friday evening, January 18, at 8 p.m. at Fremont Abbey Arts Center.

Valerie Easton: What are you up to at the Bushwick Book Club?

Geoff Larson: The Bushwick Book Club Seattle is a group of musicians who write original music inspired by books, and then perform it for a live audience. What’s unique about it is how the performers relate to the audience. Every person in the room can start out the evening knowing the source material for the performance. All they need to do is read the book!  

Everyone finds different inspirations when they read, and there will be 10 – 12 performers showing you theirs at every performance of Bushwick.

Who thought up the idea?

Susan Hwang started the first Bushwick Book Club in Bushwick, Brooklyn five years ago. It started out as a monthly meeting of performers playing their music inspired by books at a venue called Goodbye Blue Monday.

I was living in Brooklyn when I saw my first performance, which was inspired by the work of one of my favorite writers, Kurt Vonnegut.  I believe the book was “Cat’s Cradle.” The energy in the room for that performance sold me.

When did you start the Seattle chapter?

I moved back to Seattle in 2010. Our first performance was of music inspired by “Slaughterhouse-Five,” at the Can Can in Pike Place Market, in October 2010.

Does Bushwick stem more out of a love for books, or a love for music?

It’s a shared love of music and books. As a musician, I’m drawn to the atmosphere created from sharing source material. The performances are like nothing I’ve ever seen or experienced before. The audience and the performers are “all in” for the event. Bushwick gives musicians the opportunity to write about something outside of themselves. It serves as a spark for their creations.

How did you find/choose your fellow Bushwickers?

In the beginning of the Seattle chapter, I looked to my musical friends to help fill out the performances.  As our performances became more popular, I began to get inquiries from local musicians. We now have a roster of over 100 interested performers in the Seattle chapter, including musicians, actors, comedians and artists. 

When I choose the roster for the event, I try to mix professional musicians along with amateurs who don’t always have the chance to play in front of an audience. It’s a great first opportunity for many of these performers. I am also launching my new plan of a “Young Adult” performer for each event. 

Tell me about the others in the club, and the live performance….

A given performance would include 10 – 12 different artists, all singing their own music. The performers vary in their instruments and style. Mostly, the songwriters accompany their voice with a guitar or piano. These events are built to showcase the songwriting itself, connecting the music to the book. 

You’re the one choosing all the books, right? What books are lying open on your nightstand right now?

Right now I’m reading Michael Pollan’s “The Botany of Desire,” Howard Zinn’s “A People’s History of the United States,” “The Hobbit,” and Larry MacMurtry’s “The Streets of Laredo.” I try and keep ahead of the material for the book club, but also give myself some personal reading. Zinn and Pollan are for Bushwick.

Have you read a truly great book lately? One you’d unhesitatingly recommend to friends and colleagues?


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