Up-and-Comer Songwriter Brett Luskin Plays the Whiskey A Go Go
Sunset Strip, Sunday night, and the Whiskey a Go Go's not quite the throbbing, heaving, jumping, crowded, beer-swigging, ear-bleeding, rock-and-roll venerated venue one would expect from a club that's played host to such legendary performers as the Doors, Van Morrison, Guns N' Roses and Metallica.
In fact, the rather sparse crowd have spent most of the evening milling around the bar and talking through the various performances – well, most of the performances. Nic, an aging rocker desperately clinging on to the last vestiges of youth managed to catch the crowd's attention with his earnest, if not a little too-earnest, renderings of Tom Petty and Bob Dylan, amongst others.
But as Brett Luskin takes to the stage, just him and his guitar, it seems like this has been the performance the crowd has been waiting for as they fall into a seated semi-circle around the stage and subsides to a hushed murmur.
"Thanks everybody, hopefully the next time I perform I should have a full band with me," he begins, before giving an eight-strong song set that manages to lull the crowd out of their stupor and even whips them into a bit of a hand clapping frenzy towards the end of the performance.
Luskin, 24, a Baltimore native with the kind of easy-going disposition one would expect from someone who hangs around the beach all day – he doesn't - arrived in Los Angeles a little less than a year and a half ago with the intention of forging a career out of music.
Prior to L.A., stints in Orlando and New York helped him to hone and fine-tune his skills as a writer and live performer, but aside from the inevitable life-journey teachings his travels have afforded him, his music draws particular inspiration from his time at Syracuse University.
"My music's inspired by people I've loved and left," he says, "but there's this one girl I met at Syracuse, Jada Leng, and it's been on and off with this girl for years. I asked her to follow me here…all my love songs are about her."
John Mayer and Jason Mraz are two artists who he says have influenced his music as an acoustic performer, citing Mayer's skill as a guitarist as something to which he aspires, but he admits that his music isn't tied to any particular genre. In fact his new EP, "Unreachable," due to be released mid-December, is produced by J. L. Brown, known for his work with hip-hop artists such as Mateo and Teo, and the record is a fusion of Luskin's more acoustic material with a flavor of Brown's R n' B work as a producer.
"This guy is extremely talented," says Brown, "You don't have to baby-sit him in the studio – he knows what he wants. He stands a really good chance of making it in this business."
As for his performance, while the initial two songs are a little reserved, due in no small part to the rather ambivalent mood of the evening, by the third song he seems to hit his stride. "Dirty Hands" and "Reputation" are up-tempo numbers that maintain a decent rhythm to the set, with Luskin sounding a little Billie Joe Armstrong from Green Day, on the latter track.
"Unreachable" is a mid-tempo number that begs to be played driving along with the top down on a balmy summer's evening, while "Lighthouse" slots easily into the Mayer mould of slow, reflective balladry.
The best is saved for last, however, with "Writing a Love Song" illustrating his talents as an emotive and gifted artist. Ebbing and flowing the pace and rhythm of the piece, he demonstrates a finesse and sincerity that allows the true meaning of the song to permeate through the music.
The crowd, more animated than at any point throughout the evening, seem warmed to his performance. Christine Ramirez, enjoying her 21st Birthday, says she would be definitely buying his music, while another music fan, David Simmons says that he comes to every one of Luskin's performances.
However, if Luskin is ever to wrestle the singer-songwriter crown from Mayer's greedy clutches, it is the comments of fan Alex Graves that will give Luskin greatest confidence for the future. "He makes me feel like a little girl again," Graves says, her face flushed with emotion. "He gives me butterflies," she says before giggling like a love-addled teenager.