Friday night, Nancy Rawles, Ed Skoog, Jess Walter and The Board of Education read and played music on the theme "Under the Influence" at the Hugo House.

First, the good: Skoog admitted that his suite of poems was influenced—get it? double meaning!—in equal measure by William Carlos Williams and Shane MacGowan. The latter was especially evident in a poem about Kelly's Bar in Belltown, a bar that Skoog admitted he couldn't convince most of his friends to visit due to inclement sketchiness. His poetry was thoughtful, careful, but willing to kick in doors, and the little speeches he gave in between poems were delightful, too, especially when he commented that working in a P-Patch made him feel like a hopeful "young socialist."

And Jess Walter's story was a fucking Halloween delight. It had to do with zombies, drugs, and a post-apocalyptic Seattle, but it absolutely wasn't what you are thinking right now. And the central horror of the piece came from somewhere surprising, too. I'm being oblique when discussing Walter and Skoog's pieces because the Hugo House will run the pieces on their website in a few days, and I want you to come to them somewhat fresh.

The Board of Education played kid-friendly songs about how Glenn Beck must hate himself and the way binary stars are attracted to each other. The crowd was charmed by their chipper, kid-friendly stage presence. The big downer of the evening was Rawles, whose piece was an oblique story about a married woman in the midst of a teenagery crush on a friend who is part of a married couple. It was obvious and facile, the story of a crush from beginning to (roughly) end, only there were almost no concrete places or characters to hold on to. It was an internal monologue with no externals, which can be a hard thing to pull off. Adding to the obviousness of her story, Rawles ended her performance by telling married people in the audience who were currently experiencing extramarital crushes to "cut it out." It was nowhere near the worst performance I've seen at a Hugo House reading series—that honor still goes to Rick Moody, who was also reading about love—but it wasn't up to the regular standards of the series, either.