Barbara Manning Joins Colorful Mix On Laundromat CD

San Francisco-based songwriter contributes live performance from cafe that doubles as laundry facility.

SAN FRANCISCO -- A lot of producers would consider a barking dog that somehow makes itself heard at the end of a live song to be a problem, or at least cause to go back and re-record the tune.

But for singer/songwriter Ian Brennan, who coordinates the weekly Monday-night series at the Brainwash cafe/Laundromat here and who produced the upcoming LP, Unscrubbed: Live From the Laundromat II, the pooch's yapping helped add to the flavor of the multi-artist live disc.

After all, the whole disc was recorded within the casual confines of a laundry room of sorts.

"The Barbara Manning track ['Green'] (RealAudio excerpt) is a good example," the 31-year-old Brennan said of the San Francisco-based singer/songwriter of the former SF Seals. "There was a dog that I guess wandered into the cafe with its owner and when they finished the song everyone started clapping and it scared the dog and he started barking. I think that kinda captures the whole feeling of anything can happen, that would not happen in most clubs."

Included on the disc, which is set to hit stores Saturday, are Bay Area spoken-word poetry act Beth Lisick Ordeal, singer/songwriter Chuck Prophet, the lesbian-twang Kuntry Kunts, avant-garde guitarist Henry Kaiser and local rock outfits such as Tarnation, MK Ultra and Joaquina.

Brennan began pulling the bands off the beer-soaked hardwood floors of San Francisco clubs and into the glassed-in confines of Brainwash, a Laundromat that doubles as a cafe and nightclub, in September 1996. Brennan, a local rock musician who has released seven albums on his own label, Toy Gun Murder Records, including 1997's Cheapskate, selected the 25 tracks for Unscrubbed: Live From the Laundromat II.

In keeping with the establishment's low key, eclectic nature, Brennan said he based his choices on performances alone instead of the band's stature or musical style.

"I tried to keep out of the political aspect and just pick what worked best, not necessarily a judgment on who's a better band, but more which performances came through the strongest," said Brennan, who contributed his song "School Spirit" (RealAudio excerpt) to the disc. "I tend to think of them as urban field recordings. That's what we're trying to do."

For Manning's appearance at Brainwash, she was joined on the song by saxophonist Ralph Carney (Tom Waits) and what's billed in the liner notes as the Brainwash Symphony Orchestra, which the songwriter explained was actually 11 classically trained musicians with whom she'd never before been in the same room.

"I tried to listen to what was going on with the other musicians, but at the same time, I realized that I had to be the eyebeam holding it up because I'm the one who knew the song the best by far," Manning said of the performance of the song "Green," which included accompaniment by cellos, violins, a bassoon, a steel guitar and a piano.

"So there was sort-of a mixture of everybody listening to each other, and at the same time I wanted to give lots of room for them to explore whatever they wanted," Manning added. "But I really needed to play it straight and firmly and sing right."

Although there are regulars who come down to the cafe/Laundromat a couple Mondays a month, Brennan, who is releasing the album on his own label, said the eclectic flow of traffic passing through the South of Market area helps keep the performance series fresh.

"We've had younger people, older people," Brennan said. "I think it's an anything-goes thing that varies from week to week. You've got the homeless, little kids, animals, people who detest rock music and people who are into electronic music all coming through."

Sean Coleman, 32, guitarist with the local quartet the Sunshine Club, who contributed the track "When Love Comes" (RealAudio excerpt), said the layout of Brainwash lends itself to a unique performing experience, with performers clumped in the front corner of the room, their backs to a wall of windows.

"It's a balancing act," Coleman said. "If you play loud you blast people out because it's a very live sounding room, with the glass and concrete, but if you play too quiet you can hear the Laundromat."