Thursday evenings on the no-smoking floor of Preservation Pub have been right peculiar lately. Live on stage is a sort of four-hour variety show, featuring, last week, film, music videos, music performances, readings, interviews, audience-participation free-verse poetry, and a haiku contest.
If you popped in for half an hour at, say, 7:30 p.m. last Thursday, you would have witnessed a surreal film about intergalactic dinosaurs, followed by a surprising conversation with elusively deadpan musical maverick Wil Wright of Senryu, then a humorously profane gangsta rap video by Wright's Lil Iffy persona. Followed immediately by a transitional series of loud Neil Diamond hits. And then a 30-minute personal interview with me.
There aren't many things that have never been tried before, but maybe the literary variety show, in a bar, is one. Write Nite is the brainchild of Brent Thompson, who seems uniquely qualified to host it. Thompson says he's never heard of anything like this elsewhere. He has the capital to try something this odd.
A former talk-show host, Thompson has a cheerful, audience-friendly persona that convinces you he could, on short notice, sub as host of the Today Show. But he's also a guitarist and singer/songwriter who has performed everything from jam to jazz in downtown nightclubs in recent years. He's well-connected, and if Brent has an idea, no matter how odd, he'll find folks game to give it a spin.
At least a quarter of the people in the room were musicians with followings of their own; I spotted Jack Rentfro, Ben Maney, Christina Horn, Nate Barrett, and blues maven Michael Gill. It says something that Nashville duo Rough and Tumble recruited one audience member, veteran rock saxophonist Scott Campbell, to run their soundboard.
It coalesced as a curious combination of a rainy day at summer camp, a half-toasted open-mic night, and The Dick Cavett Show. In a bar. I'll go back again.
Thompson seems earnest about bringing out the writer in people who don't know they're writers. He also means to maintain the uninhibited, spontaneous, loony nature of it; despite the scheduling, four hours leaves room for much that's unplanned.
Helping was his resourceful assistant, Reenie Kennedy-Moonie. In my interview, I made an offhand remark about one of Tom Waits' many non-hits, "Underground." Plucking it from the ether in no time, she used it as a post-interview segue.
This Thursday, featured interviewees include Brian Griffin, the nationally heralded fiction writer who just moved in downtown, and singer/songwriter Karen E. Reynolds. It all starts at 6 p.m.