The Simple Pleasures: Brian Byrnes & Patrick Wolf

By Niki Esko

A few months back (~Poetry Month) I started going to a weekly open mic potluck at my friend Lynn Gentry's house near San Francisco State. Most of the artists who showed up were primarily musicians; although, my fellow poets were most definitely present. The very first night I met Brian Byrnes, a musician from Lansing, Michigan. He moved to SF for a change of scenery, a steady climate, cultural diversity, and a thriving music scene. We chatted upstairs for a bit more and got to know the others. When it came time for show & tell, everyone gathered in the garage to perform and jam. It was a beautiful thing to hear so many guitars, fingers on the keyboard, and voices droppin' harmony. Brian's voice and genuine personality stood out to me and I couldn't wait to see him perform in a public venue.

Luckily, last week Brian invited me to his first solo gig at Simple Pleasures Cafe on Balboa.

Simple Pleasures is a small, non-tourist cafe at 3434 Balboa, San Francisco. When I walked in I couldn't tell where Brian would be performing because of all the couches and people. After buying a root beer, I finally found him setting up by the piano towards the back of the narrow room. He told me he'd be sharing the set with his friend Patrick Wolf. I'd heard Pat at Lynn's place but never got around to speaking with him. I was excited about both artists and got my pen out so I could get to writin'.

I sat behind them so as not to disturb them with my stalker sketching and weird stares. No, I really sat behind them because thats where most of the tables with good lighting were. Simple Pleasures should consider rearranging their set up so coffee fiends and fans can get the most out of the music. Anywho, Brian got right to it and his voice filled the busy cafe.

Brian has been playing music since he was little. Last night he showed them skills on a harmonica, piano, and guitar. He told me he has been playing guitar for 9 years and that some of his influences include Phish, the Grateful Dead, and the Beatles. With those influences you'd think you could imagine what he sounds like but his voice doesn't seem to fit a single genre or match a sole band/artist. Among the songs he performed were some of his originals: Golden Shores, Wishing Well, Fields are Burning, Broken Cup, Southeast of Briage, The Clowns that Laugh. Fields are Burning created an energy about the room that I have not felt in a while. With lyrics like "...the neon lights will draw us in like the vultures in the sky...," it is no doubt that music and poetry hold hands at night. [if I got any part of those lyrics wrong, let me know Brian! Either way, your songs are true]. He had this to say about this song:

"Fields are Burning sends a general message of hope and optimism, and tries to convey the idea that 'the grass is greener on the other side,' or that I need to come to the realization that things aren't always as bad as they seem."

Just what I needed to hear.

After a few songs Patrick Wolf took over the mic. Pat has been playing since he was 12. He was inspired by watching the motions of his father and a guitar. Patrick is from Cedar Grove, New Jersey and now lives in Richmond. He drove across the country with his girlfriend, Mary, after graduating from college. He doesn't have a solid reason or explanation for the move but I say that is exactly when someone should move; so when a person asks for motives, one can say "I'm not sure, but I did it." The universe moves in refreshingly uncharted ways.

His folk style and "warm, rich, full" sounding guitar (as quoted by Brian's father who was in the audience), was a complementary sound to Brian's but one that stands completely on its own. He played some of his own originals: No One Wins, Mary When I'm Gone, Lazybones, and Hell. When I asked about his songs, he had this to say about Lazybones:

"Lazybones, which is on my myspace, came about from lying around for a few weeks, looking on Craigslist for several hours a day, and accruing a general feeling of worthlessness and anxiety, although I like to think it is about a more universal sense of frustration. That's the idea, right? Relating the personal to the universal? I like to distance myself from anything I write anyway."

That's the idea.

Patrick has a CD but I think you've got to ask him about how to get a hold of a copy. I say peep his music on his myspace and then add him... or bug him at his upcoming shows. (He's an awful sweet guy).

Contact and upcoming gigs for Brian Byrnes and Patrick Wolf:
Mark this date!
July 11th @ the Red Victorian Peace Cafe on Haight St.

Mark this date!
July 23rd @ Simple Pleasures on Balboa

Last but not least, a burst of inspiration @ Simple Pleasures:

strum, pluck
lyrical vines over
glossy wood:
these soft strings pulled as tight as
my embrace around Bay water,
like rainbows in oil,
tight as
purple about new blood.

the view beyond the window changes
with each slurred pause.
At first pale blue like my early morning regret,
now, black speckled with gold like my
uplifted breath, my busy pen,
and eased thoughts.

mouth full of song, air is,
put to good use tonight.



Sharing art is the key to it's longevity. Your descriptions of the evening are genuine and display a great love for good music. Keep sharing and keep writing!!!

I wish that I could write like that. I felt like I was actually there... in your mind... seeing the beauty in things is one of the things that keeps me sane from all of this chaos and havoc being created around the world. I loved it!

A very nice introduction to two very talented San Francisco residents. I like the response poem idea -- very clever and beautifully executed. Well done, friend!

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