Rock Life for Sale
Local bandleader offers up the contents of his garage to appease the music gods.
Thursday, November 10, 2005
Keith Bruecker says he wrote his best songs while homeless. “I didn’t have anything to do all day except write music,” he says. “I slept in the bed of my truck with my musical instruments and clothes underneath me.”
That was about a year ago. Now the CSU Monterey Bay grad’s looking to make the next step in a music career that’s moving beyond the local market, and return to that state of simplicity.
His pilgrimage begins with blueberry pancakes.
Bruecker, the songwriter/guitarist/frontman of the Pillow Fighters (formerly the Nancy Boys), has put together an event that’s one part local rock showcase, one part vintage record sale, one part free pancake feed. The charis-manic performer says the “garage sale”—which will include raffles and the sale of his beloved collection of rare records and several guitars—will accomplish two vital goals. One, it will help him “minimize his life in an attempt to be less distracted and more focused on [his] art.” Two, he says, the sale of his favorite toys will help generate the cash he needs to produce a new Pillow Fighters CD (out this Dec. 15).
“It’s that thing where the stuff you own ends up owning you,” he says. He hopes that the garage sale will help him move towards an existence he describes as “rock monk.”
Bruecker also hopes it will help him move to Seattle with sometime Pillow Fighters-collaborator and singer-songwriter Tony Burciaga to form a new band and hook up with a tour.
“We want to get up there, field a couple of musicians for our band, get into the club scene, and get a large enough buzz going to latch onto a better-known group touring the West Coast,” he says.
Local industry folks feel the eccentric frontman has what it takes to make it. “Whatever the name of his band is or has been, Erhman Hall, the Nancy Boys, Pillow Fighters,” says Coco Beat bassist and lifetime Peninsula musician Dave Phillips, “It’s been one of the best, most original bands I’ve heard in years around here.
“To me a great performer is someone who conveys a focused energy in such a way as to leave no doubt for the audience that they have indeed been affected,” adds Phillips, who also owns and operates Barefoot Studios. “Keith meets that criteria. He’s absolutely ready for a mid-level national act.”
Burciaga says that while Bruecker’s energy is undeniable, his evolving dedication is just as key to his musical character.
“He’s a big fan of theater and stage, so his shows are always a big production—when they became the Pillow Fighters, they bought a bunch of pillows and gave them to the audience and played a pillow-fighting song,” Burciaga says. “I can totally appreciate that. He moves around a lot and has great facial expressions. And great hair.
“But I think Keith has been a lot of showing more discipline with his playing and going for his objective.”
Bruecker admits that despite his wacky persona, he works hard for his art.
“I spent six hours practicing yesterday,” he says. “That’s not unusual.”
“Not unusual” applies to little else Bruecker does, including the event he has planned for this Saturday in Marina. The presence of several local groups and their fans—the Suborbitals, Vermillion Lies, The Pillow Fighters and Erhman Hall—indicate this ain’t your daddy’s garage sale. (Technically speaking, it isn’t a garage sale, as Bruecker lives in the garage at the residence where the sale will be held.)
But it’s there in the garage—in what Bruecker calls “the dank hole from whence I came”—between guitars and garbage, crates of records and cans of beers, that the 25 year old types out his lyrics on a WW II-era-looking typewriter. The typewriter leans against some bare mattresses and an old 1973 Hammond organ. On the first song of his 2005 solo release, State of Iowa, he lays some funky notes from this relic over his own beat-boxing and guitar to form a surprisingly solid platform for some playful, existential lyrics.
His creative resourcefulness translates well to other walks of life. It helped out while he was homeless, when he says he ate rather well by hitting Trader Joe’s dumpster each Sunday to collect just-expired perishables.
It helped him compile the trademark wardrobe he’s been seen wearing at the open mic night he hosted regularly at the Lava Lounge in Monterey this year and at regular gigs at CSUMB’s Black Box, or while manning the door at Monterey Live. He gathered the collection of suits and ties almost exclusively from CSUMB dumpsters.
“I discovered you can find great stuff that people throw away, especially at the end of the school year—entire wardrobes, old furniture,” he says. “Once I found a bottle of crème de menthe and a cast iron crepe-making pan.”
And while these discoveries merit some celebration, the most dramatic discoveries along Bruecker’s rock odyssey still remain to be made.
BRUECKER’S “SELLING MY SOUL FOR ROCK ‘N’ ROLL” EVENT STARTS AT 10AM SATURDAY WITH FREE COFFEE AND PANCAKES AT 3246 GETTYSBURG CT. IN MARINA. THE BANDS PLAY FROM NOON TO 5PM. ADMISSION IS FREE. 402-2944.