“All the Young Dudes” performed by Alejandro Escovedo and the Sensitive Boys, Tony Visconti and John Wesley Harding, April 26th, 2011

After an interesting and inspiring discussion and performance at last week’s WAMFEST event, twangy rockers Alejandro Escovedo and the Sensitive Boys, producer/musician Tony Visconti and Artist-in-Residence John Wesley Harding closed out the evening with a sweet and beautiful version of David Bowie’s “All the Young Dudes.”  Click here to enjoy the track.  Huge thanks to our performers and sponsors for such a lovely event (read our full review here)!

Next up for WAMFEST 2011 is “Writing for The New Yorker” with Ben Greenman, Nancy Franklin and Alex Ross, this Monday, May 2nd at 2 pm in Lenfell Hall, hosted by John Wesley Harding.  Josh Ritter and JWH will be reading and performing together the following Thursday, May 5th at 2:30 pm in Hartman Lounge, followed by Owen on Saturday, May 7th at 6 pm in Hartman.  Full schedule here.  Enjoy the festivities!

The Fiery Furnaces, TODAY, Fri the 29th @ 5 pm in The Bottle Hill Room

Brooklyn-based indie pop/rock duo The Fiery Furnaces join WAMFEST today, Friday, April 29th at 5 pm in the Bottle Hill Room, located in the Student Center, for a conversation and performance hosted by our lovely Artist-in-Residence John Wesley Harding.  Expect anything from experimental electro and 80s-influenced synthpop to modern indie rock and catchy licks, all topped off with beautiful vocals and edgy yet poetic lyrics.  Reservations are highly recommended for non-students; email wamfest@comcast.net for more info.

Read more about The Fiery Furnaces here, and click here for a map of the campus – the Student Center is building 17.

Don’t forget, WAMFEST continues next week with “Writing for The New Yorker” on Monday May 2nd, featuring Alex Ross, Ben Greenman and Nancy Franklin, followed by a reading and performance with Josh Ritter and John Wesley Harding on Thursday, May 5th!  Full schedule here.  Enjoy a review of our opening performance with Alejandro Escovedo and the Sensitive Boys, Dave Marsh and Tony Visconti here.

WAMFEST 2011 kicked off with an outstanding show, Tuesday April 26th, featuring Alejandro Escovedo and the Sensitive Boys, Tony Visconti and Dave Marsh hosted by John Wesley Harding

Alejandro [Escovedo] has a unique combination of abilities and human connection,” Dave Marsh said at yesterday’s WAMFEST event featuring Escovedo and the Sensitive Boys, Marsh and Tony Visconti, hosted by Artist-in-Residence John Wesley Harding.  Marsh continued with a beautifully sad story about weeping alongside Woody Guthrie’s daughter at an Escovedo performance because the music had touched both of them so deeply.  “Writing is lonely and disgusting,” he added, “but Alejandro can write and perform.”

For those of us who understand the lonely disgust of being a writer, the ability to then turn around and perform is special indeed.  For Escovedo, however, writing and performing is just a way of life.  In fact, his creative process isn’t always separate from his performances, as seen at his weekly residency at the Continental Club in Austin where he and the Sensitive Boys performed three new songs each night.  Considering his ease onstage and his childhood growing up in a musical (and large) family, it was surprising to learn he didn’t start making music until his mid-twenties.

“My brothers were my biggest influence,” he said.  “They were percussionists, taken right under Tito Puente’s wing.”  But because they were the “cool ones,” Escovedo didn’t see himself in the same musical light until after a move to California where he and some friends “wanted to make a movie about the worst band in the world.  Then we just formed it instead,” he said, laughing.

Rock outfit The Nuns brought Escovedo to the stage for the first time but his stint with them was short lived.  He moved onto New York for “my experience in the art rock world” where he founded Rank and File, a more country influenced band “the punks hated.”  After a tour ending in a night at Lester Bangs’ house in Austin, Escovedo had found his new home.

“There was quite a backlash at first, the kids saw it as their parents’ music.”  But now, according to Austin-based reviewer Chris Gray and many others, “Escovedo is worshiped like a god.”

But even the gods need collaborators.  Enter legendary producer and musician Tony Visconti.  “This is what I try to do as a producer,” Visconti said yesterday, “I try to build more interest.”  By build more interest he means write the hook to Bowie’s “Man Who Sold the World,” provide Bowie with bass lines for most of his other songs, add minor chords to Escovedo’s verses to create a chorus Escovedo himself was struggling to find, and create on-the-spot string arrangements for hits like T. Rex’s “Get It On.”

However, one of the special things about Visconti is not what he gave to these songs but how.  When describing his process to the audience in Hartman yesterday, his face softened, eyes widened and body curved further around the guitar as he returned to the moment of discovery.  His words were genuine and real, not laden with technical terms or fancy descriptions but thick with passion and excitement.  He oozed coolness without even trying; clad in jeans and a t-shirt, Visconti’s down-to-earth, laid back attitude and friendly demeanor only enhanced his persona.

As a young writer and musician seeking to contribute something exciting and worthwhile to the world, yesterday’s event was a true inspiration to me, an invaluable lesson and an all-around stellar performance.  While the focus remained mostly on Escovedo and Visconti, the performers all shared personal anecdotes from their years in the scene, going into great detail about their songwriting processes, the relationship between lyrics and instruments, the ups and downs of collaborating with others and how these collaborations have affected their work.  The Sensitive Boys, comprising David Pulkingham on guitar, Bobby Daniel on bass and Hector Munoz on drums (who has played with Escovedo for twenty-three years now, a relationship “longer than my marriages,” Escovedo laughed), played a handful of songs throughout the discussion, often accompanied by Visconti on guitar.  The men closed out the event with a gorgeous performance of “All the Young Dudes,” a tune Bowie wrote in the 70s for glam rockers Mott the Hoople. Stay tuned for a recording of their amazing rendition with Harding and Escovedo trading off vocals, and join us THIS Friday, April 29th in the Bottle Hill Room, located in the Student Center, for a conversation and performance with The Fiery Furnaces, hosted by our lovely Artist-in-Residence John Wesley Harding.  Click here for a map of the campus – the Student Center is building 17.

HUGE thanks to all our performers and our sponsors!

Words by Becky Fine-Firesheets.  Images by Dan Landau.