“I’m not used to being on stage alone” confessed local songwriter Briana Soroko as she started her set at Limerick’s Public House in Wausau. As a member of two bands, The Bastettes and Pour Choices, she’s normally accompanied by an array of instrumentalists. For this Songwriter Showcase two weeks ago, Soroko stood alone with a ukulele and kick drum to belt out the quirky, beat-heavy songs she wrote herself.
Presented by Acoustic Moving Company, Songwriter Showcases are held every few months at Limerick’s and feature regional musicians performing a solo acoustic show in an intimate environment—think Wisconsin unplugged. Previous showcases have spotlighted Caleb Delaney of Indigibliss, Jared Van Handel of The Monsters of Grass (Appleton area), and Pete Koconis of Funkyard Dealers (Stevens Point).
For this fifth showcase on April 12, the Appleton event company managed by former Wausau resident David Blessent decided to mix it up with a night exclusively for female songwriters in the Wausau area.
Organized like a well-structured open mic, the five ladies shared personal songs in their distinctive styles for a night of diverse music. Soroko’s music could be described as alt-folk rock. Jenna McGivern (who usually performs as Lady J), played mellow, heartfelt folk tunes while strumming acoustic guitar. Matty Barnetzke of Matty Ann and the Vacant jammed her punk rock songs with electric guitar. The always-fabulous Carmyn Hoen of Open Tab and The Third Wheels performed a soulful, bluesy set with her bandmate and husband Nick—the first time the duo ever performed a set of only original songs. Jasmine Zeigelbauer of Cheap Seats sang with her acoustic guitar, but was later joined by two of her (male) bandmates for some great harmonies.
Several women shared the inspiration behind the songs they wrote, their songwriting process and creative vision. Zeigelbauer divulged she wrote a song when she felt like no one in her family liked her significant other. Hoen performed a song written after seeing a corpse. Soroko disclosed how she wrote one song on the drive home from a show with one of her bands, where she felt surrounded by men.
And on stage they individually joked about, “OK, here comes a set of angry songs,” and “Do you want an angry song or sad one now?”
Yes, the tone of many songs that night carried underlying and obvious themes of discontent. And it was fantastic. And, yes, a few songs were more encouraging and upbeat.
Above all, the women seemed grateful to put their songwriting chops in the spotlight. For sure, music lovers can be grateful to experience familiar musicians in a much different, perhaps even more creative and expressive setting. The next Songwriter Showcase is Thursday, July 12. For details, check out Acoustic Moving Company’s Facebook page.
(First published in the April 26, 2018 issue of City Pages)