checking in on lightbulb mouth

March 22, 2012

This column appeared in the O.C. Weekly’s March 22 print issue and online here.

Lightbulb Mouth Radio Hour Is Back

[Checking In On . . .] Different format, same literary geniuses

Derrick C. Brown is our local literary scene’s wordsmithing rock star, whose “act like a band and hit the road” approach to poetry promotion has found the former paratrooper touring the world and opening for bands such as Cold War Kids, the Decemberists and the White Stripes. In 2010, Brown created a similar cross-pollination paradise at home with Long Beach‘s Lightbulb Mouth Radio Hour, a weekly live-radio variety show that featured musicians, humorists, poets and writers in a Prairie Home Companion-style format that was later made available as podcasts. By the end of the year—just as the show began to gain momentum—Brown pulled the plug. But this past February, Lightbulb Mouth returned. With a new format, a new venue and a new night, this new non-“radio hour” Lightbulb Mouth is in it for the long haul.

OC Weekly: Why did you decide to bring back Lightbulb Mouth?

Derrick C. Brown: I always said that if I brought it back, it would only be once a month and I wanted to change the format. I wanted to do a literary show that was fun for people who weren’t necessarily into books. It could be a space for them to get into books.

But you’re moving to Austin soon, right?

Yeah, I wanted to kick it off—reinvigorate it. Long Beach needs it. Not that it needs me, but the town needs a place where authors can have a blast together and the audience can enjoy themselves, even if they don’t write.

A lot of your writing outreach involves music. Do you think that’s necessary, or is it just how you like to do things?

I think it helps bring more people together. And since writers are best served in large crowds—they move more books that way—it’s a good way to expose people to writers they might not have heard about before. I like everyone pollinating one another’s scenes.

Weren’t you in a band, too?

I was the singer in a band called John Wilkes Kissing Booth, and we were signed to a shitty label for a long time. I think there’s something wonderful about being so raw in music, but it’s irritating in writing. You can get lost in a guitar melody, but it’s hard to get lost in a capella lyrics, which is essentially what prose is. You’re so locked into someone reading their work that if it’s shitty, you feel it times 10. It’s a very naked art form.

Lightbulb Mouth at Harvelle’s, longbeach.harvelles.com. Sun., 6-9 p.m. $8; $5 if dressed in cocktail attire. 21+.  Also Derrick C. Brown’s Strange Light book-release party at First Congregational Church of Long Beach, www.firstchurchlb.org. Fri., 7 p.m. Free. All ages.

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