Obituary: Louis Brazier of Lestat’s West dies at 59
The sound engineer and booking manager at the Normal Heights venue was known for his great ear, selfless personality and commitment to the San Diego music scene
Louis Brazier, the longtime sound engineer and booking manager at Lestat’s West, died of a heart attack at his Normal Heights home on Aug. 16. He was 59.
Affectionately known as “Louie” and “Lou,” Brazier grew up in the neighboring community of Kensington with his parents and two younger siblings. His sister, Theresa Ann Derchan, describes Brazier as an adventurous and curious kid — constantly climbing San Diego canyons or taking his toys apart to see how they work. He also had a mischievous side and would sometimes sneak into the back of Ken Cinema, as well as lovingly torment Derchan.
Brazier’s love of music started early. Thanks to the eclectic tastes of their parents, Derchan says she and her siblings were surrounded by a broad range of music at home. In his teenage years, Brazier formed a local band called Louie and the Koodies and played gigs around San Diego.
After graduating Hoover High School, Brazier’s interest in being on stage shifted to a desire to work behind the scenes. He got a job as a sound engineer at Leeds, a North Hollywood rehearsal studio; through those connections, he was afforded the opportunity to tour the world with bands like Van Halen and Nelson.
“He’s one of those people I’ve never had an argument with, which is unusual when you tour — you squabble like brothers,” says Michael Labonte, Brazier’s friend and former roommate who traveled on many tours with him as a crew member.
Despite his adventurous and curious spirit, Derchan notes that she doesn’t think Brazier’s desire to tour was to travel the world. For him, it was all about being around the music.
After years on the road, Brazier moved back to San Diego and settled in Normal Heights. In 2002 he began working as the sound engineer and booking manager at Lestat’s West, a recently-opened music venue of the adjoined Lestat’s Coffee House on Adams Avenue.
Under Brazier’s management, Lestat’s West became a beloved venue among the local music community. His talent for sound mixing turned the small room — sometimes described by regulars as a shoebox — into an audiophile’s dream. He created an atmosphere in the all-ages establishment that captivated any audience member, from young kids to Derchan’s 92-year-old mother-in-law.
“He made it feel like you were playing an arena,” says musician and producer Jeff Berkley, who played at the small-scale venue from its inception. “He knew just how it all had to go down so that it was done in a way where audiences and the artists felt like it was the most beautiful, important gig in the history of the world that night.”
The lineups Brazier booked at Lestat’s West matched the diverse music background of his youth, with no genre or style turned away at the door. Past performers note they were encouraged by Brazier to play original songs, work out new material and collaborate with other acts during gigs.
“It was the place where you could be an artist,” says violinist Jamie Shadowlight, adding that Lestat’s West was a rare venue in San Diego where established and emerging musicians could play together.
Many of the musicians who gigged at Lestat’s West went on to become big industry names: Jason Mraz, Anya Marina, Molly Jenson. Some continued to return to the shoebox room after gaining national success. While Brazier left the door open for seasoned acts, he equally supported young musicians trying to find their footing on the scene.
Brazier hosted a weekly open mic that invited artists of all skill levels to the stage, frequently scouting those he saw promise in to perform their first official gig at Lestat’s West. The soundman had a knack for finding raw talent and often believed in people — even when they didn’t believe in themselves.
“His whole life was about lifting others, not himself … his real joy was in finding the talent of others and really showcasing that,” Derchan says.
Though Brazier was a highly-regarded soundman and show booker, his work extended beyond the mixing board or music calendar. His ego never stood in the way of setting up the lights, arranging the chairs or working the doors. Yet no matter how much work was thrown at him, or how chaotic the night got, Brazier would never complain.
“He would be like this aura of calm in the middle of a s— storm before you go on stage,” says singer-songwriter Steve Poltz, adding that Brazier rarely ran out of patience.
Brazier frequently audio recorded and photographed each show and would gift the performers a “press kit” at no cost, providing them a keepsake of the evening. He put the musicians first — from giving them control of the setlist to ensuring the door splits were fair. And if the room was too packed, he’d go back to his Ken Cinema days and sneak folks in through the back.
“He would just totally take care of you, and that’s what makes you as a musician want to go back to a place and play,” Poltz adds.
If Brazier was the superman of Lestat’s West, his scruffy black dogs were the loyal sidekicks. When his brother Billy died in 2008, Brazier took in Billy’s dog Toby, who became a regular character at the venue. After Toby’s death came Whisper, then Roxie. Each dog was Brazier’s shadow, roaming the aisles and sitting on stage during shows. (Derchan confirmed the family has found a new home for Roxie, Brazier’s dog at the time of his death.)
Sometimes, Brazier’s dedication to Lestat’s West came at a price. Brazier, who lived humbly in a small apartment without a car, habitually sacrificed his money, time and health to ensure the success of the music venue.
“He gave everything he had to making that place beautiful and wonderful ... just like us artists do, he put himself in harms way for the sake of art every day,” Berkley says.
In June 2021, Lestat’s West permanently shuttered its doors due to ongoing financial issues compounded by the pandemic shutdown. Brazier moved his soundman talents to Ken Club, a bar on Adams Avenue owned by Brazier’s childhood friend Brett Bodie. Brazier worked at Ken Club up until his death, and had plans to revive his open mic in the Kensington space.
“He wasn’t dedicated to the building of (Lestat’s West) but to the people,” Derchan says.
In addition to his legacy at Lestat’s West, Brazier was a celebrated member of the Normal Heights neighborhood. Brazier greeted folks with a smile and a hug, always seeming to know everyone’s name. He was frequently spotted riding his bike around the neighborhood — with his scruffy black dog right beside him.
Scott Kessler, executive director of Adams Avenue Business Association, enlisted Brazier’s help with talent booking and stage management at two neighborhood festivals: Adams Avenue Street Fair and Adams Avenue Unplugged. Along with lending a hand at these events, Kessler says Brazier was the association’s “ears and eyes on that block” and served as an informal advocate for Adams Avenue.
“He had the choice of working with bigger bands or he could come home (to San Diego) and build a community,” says mentee turned best friend Samer Bakri, who booked his first show at Lestat’s West through Brazier and later ran the sound booth with him at Ken Club. “And that’s exactly what he did.”
Brazier is survived by his sister Theresa Ann Derchan and brother-in-law Randall Derchan, both of Northridge.
To help Derchan pay for burial expenses, donations can be made at gofundme.com/f/louis-brazier-burial-expense. Services for a celebration of life are pending.
Bakri, Bodie and singer-songwriter Gregory Page — who the Lestat’s West stage is named after — are also planning a memorial show in honor of Brazier. Details will be announced through Facebook.
“Together we’re gonna grieve through music and community,” Bakri says. “And I think that’s exactly how Lou would want us to continue on and live his legacy.”
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