Music is more meaningful when it has a close, personal connection

The following was originally published in the Puyallup Herald.

Did you catch PK Dwyer’s show recently at the Puyallup Farmer’s Market? I didn’t. Had I known he was performing, I’d have been there.

Dwyer was a significant figure in Seattle music in the 1970s and 80s. Credited with being the first busker at the Pike Place Market, he also fronted the groundbreaking Seattle band, The Jitters. I know this because I own their 1980 LP, which leads off with the memorably titled song, “Don’t You Remember That You Are the One That Burned Down the Bridges That I Built Over Rivers of Tears That I Cried Over You.”

Once, when I was working at a fast food place in college, Dwyer and the other Jitters walked in and ordered some road food. He wore sunglasses, and if I recall correctly, jeans and a sport coat. But what made him memorable was his hair. It was light-brown or blonde hair, styled in a sort of unruly shag-do, his head nearly disappearing in its immensity.

Dwyer has been making music on his own terms for decades, preferring to perform on the street or in small, unique venues. His occasional recordings have garnered great reviews and an award or two. Oh, and nowadays that immense hair has migrated south to his chin, where he sports a Meeker-esque beard.

Kim Field in the 80s

But he wasn’t the only northwest musician I’ve been catching up with in the past couple of years. While digitizing some old negatives I shot at Bumbershoot, I wondered about the subjects of those pictures, a blues outfit called The Slamhound Hunters. With a little research I found out the harmonica player and lead vocalist, Kim Field, now fronts The Mighty Titans of Tone in Seattle, and published a terrific book on the history of the harmonica.

Then, while browsing Facebook looking for Field, I came across a duo known as Funk Mason. Carl Funk and Larry Mason had been key members of The Allies, one of the most successful Seattle bands of the 1980s, gaining national exposure on MTV’s Basement Tapes. After spending some time in New York, both came back to Washington. For ten years or so they played regionally as an acoustic duo.

A little more than a year ago they teamed with local boy and Grammy winner Eric Tingstad to form The Halyards. They released a well-received CD, “Fortune Smiles,” and have been performing regularly in the Puget Sound region.

The Halyards

At the U2 show at Qwest Field recently, I had my wife Laurie take a picture of me proudly displaying my Halyards t-shirt, with the gigantic stage in the background. U2 was an almost overwhelming experience, with the high tech audio-visuals and crowd of 70,000 roaring for the biggest rock band in the world. But the importance of musicians like Dwyer, Field, Funk, and Mason looms large in my life, pushing the megastars down the list of music I can’t live without.

Lesson learned: Check the Puyallup concert listings regularly.

All photographs by Michael Brown

About Michael Brown

I am an Elementary School teacher in the state of Washington. I enjoy writing, bird-watching, working in the garden, photography, and spending time with my family. View all posts by Michael Brown

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