2:00am | The Lightbulb Mouth Radio Hour actually lasts a little more than two hours, each Wednesday night at The Basement in Long Beach's East Village.
Which is fine, because it would be a crime to place a time limit on the live talent and creativity on display each night in the underground bar on Broadway & Linden that plays host to the Lightbulb Mouth Radio Hour and its rising star host, Long Beach-bred poet Derrick Brown.
In a few short months, Brown has built Lightbulb Mouth into a hotspot by bringing together some of the most talented authors, musicians and comedians in Long Beach and beyond. Amateur poets even have a chance to perform during the open mic session that begins at 8:00pm, giving them the rare chance to open for Brown – a renowned live poet with two published anthologies, who has opened at shows for the Cold War Kids and The White Stripes.
Last night, another big name took the stage when rock trio Deep Sea Diver – held in high esteem locally for their East Village roots – was the musical guest and delivered a powerful performance (video here). The show drew the biggest audience that Lightbulb Mouth has attracted so far. “I don’t know what caused it, but tonight is great,” Brown told me before the show began.
He appeared nearly giddy with the size of the crowd and the lineup he’d assembled, which included novelist Matthew Spektor and comic performer Jeremy Radin. The 26-year old Radin was the night’s “informationist,” a term that Brown came up with to allow unique performers a chance to shine. Radin has appeared on numerous television shows and delivered a speech on “How to be rad,” which included a helpful acronym – Realization. Acceptance. Destruction. – and concluded with Radin explaining that you don’t need anything but your own unique personality to be rad. The fact that he was nearly completely undressed by the time he reached his conclusion served as both an accurate metaphor and a hilarious attention-grabber.
But even when Lightbulb Mouth is about other people, it’s really about Brown.
The poet proves that he’s good with more than a pen and pad, guiding the show from guest to guest with grace and on-point humor. It’s worth saying that Lightbulb Mouth has expanded its fanbase mostly by word of mouth. Sure, there was also an LBPOST.com article in February, a cover story in The District Weekly a few weeks later, and a couple of fliers posted in nearby coffeehouses – but for the most part, people are coming to Lightbulb Mouth because the quality of the show is drawing them in.
Part of the attraction may be loyalty. Brown goes out of his way to make the show about the intricacies of Long Beach, offering swooning praise and harsh critiques of the city in a “No one picks on my little brother but me” kind of way. He wrote a theme song that is recited before every show, allowing the audience to scream “Long Beach!” between stanzas filled with cracks about the Queen Mary and chicken and waffles. He makes in-the-know cracks about local bar The Prospector and takes time to publicize LongBeachOrganic.org just because he can.
There’s even an In The News section, which highlights local goings-on that are often pulled from the LBPOST.com. Wednesday night’s slate featured a mention about the Water Department’s recently announced program to offer rebates to homeowners willing to relandscape their yards to conserve water.
“Does anyone here have a house?” Brown asked the audience, counting two raised hands and clearly not speaking to the program’s target audience. He then moved on to a story about the city’s bicycle initiative. “How about bikes? Does anybody here have a bike?”
He’s also not afraid to take the show down a serious road. Citing a recent wave of shootings that left a teenager dead and several others wounded, Brown issued a sharp diatribe against gangs and the violence they engage in. “There’s no joke here,” he said, in case the audience was waiting for one. He spent the next minute calling for increased community outrage and encouraged his listeners to attend a public meeting with the Long Beach Chief of Police this weekend. The crowd cheered him on.
So yes, Lightbulb Mouth Radio Hour is a unique and entertaining show with very talented guests, cheap drinks and a rising star as its host (and yes, some profanity). But it’s also a place to sharpen your awareness of the city, whether through an inspired sermon or trends in the local music and arts scene.
Like Brown, it’s just so very Long Beach.
Find more information at lightbulbmouth.com.