2011 Bios

WAMFEST Artist in Residence Wesley Stace/John Wesley Harding
Wesley Stace/John Wesley Harding is the living embodiment of WAMFEST, a man truly dedicated to his own expression of words and music and to supporting the greater artistic communities in general.  His dual identity as a singer/songwriter and novelist has served him well; his insanely large song library successfully combines folk, rock, American roots and a little country while his new novel, the titillating murder mystery Charles Jessold, Considered a Murderer, has been very enthusiastically and positively reviewed by The New York Times and NPR. A born performer, his monthly variety show Cabinet of Wonders (held at City Winery in Manhattan) combines music, comedy and readings by topnotch artists like Eugene Mirman, Andrew Bird, Mary Gaitskill, Ted Leo and Gary Shteyngart.  Stace/Harding will be hosting each WAMFEST event in addition to reading from his novel and performing with Josh Ritter on Thursday, May 5th.  Learn more about Harding’s “life’s project” of “putting music and literature together in new ways” at The Philadelphia Inquirer.

Tuesday, April 26 @ 5 pm: “A Conversation and Performance with Alejandro Escovedo, Dave Marsh, and Tony Visconti”
Alejandro Escovedo doesn’t just play music, he is music.  Starting off as a punk rocker with The Nuns in California, Escodevo has progressed through various genres, lyrical styles and collaborations to create his touching rock anthems that only improve with age.  It’s rare to find a man who captures such honest, real moments in his words and his guitar.  Check out Roy Kasten’s interview in The Dallas Observer to learn more.

Usually producers sit on the back burner, working behind-the-scenes to help superstars shine.  Tony Visconti, on the other hand, has risen to his own level of stardom.  Having worked extensively with idols like David Bowie, the Stooges, Angelique Kidjo and The Moody Blues, Visconti truly is a musical genius and legend.  With a past in classical, lounge and hard rock, he not only produces major hits but also writes for and performs with many of his collaborators, including The Dandy Warhols and Escovedo.

Rock-and-roll wouldn’t be the same without the music-obsessed writers dedicated to documenting the scene.  Dave Marsh, critic, author, editor and radio deejay, brought the wild life of Bruce Springsteen to his fans with books Born to Run and Glory Days in addition to founding Creem magazine and musical/political newsletter Rock and Rap Confidential.  His influential writings extend to literature, anti censorship advocacy, cancer awareness and more.  Check out his radio programs, a progressive talk show airing on SiriusLeft Sundays at 1 pm and Kick Out the Jams, a show combining music with politics airing Sundays from 10 am – 12 pm on The Loft.

Friday, April 29 @ 5 pm: “A Conversation and Performance with The Fiery Furnaces”

From experimental concept albums to ’80s influenced synthpop to modern indie rock, brother/sister duo The Fiery Furnaces manage to straddle the line between really weird and completely accessible.  Eleanor Friedberger’s enchanting voice combined with Matt’s unique compositions are sometimes catchy, sometimes disturbing but always magnetic.  Lyrics from their latest album Take Me Round Again read like lines from a chapbook: “You won’t mind me writing my own/receipts for boys and smoke,” or, “She’s gonna get me folked up, fairly beat/Teach me not to get baited with stage whispers.”  It seems a little unfair that on top of all this, they both have great hair.

Monday, May 2 @ 2 pm: “Writing for The New Yorker with Ben Greenman, Nancy Franklin and Alex Ross”

Editor of The New Yorker, novelist, blogger, essayist, journalist and short story master can all be applied to Ben Greenman.  He embraces and celebrates music in his writings, even collaborating with Swamp Dogg to create a theme song for his recent novel about a fictional funk/rock star, Please Step Back.  His personal blog MoistWorks combines his love of music with his passion for writing; most entries involve a playlist and short essay that relate to a greater theme.  Somehow he also finds time to write and compose musicals about famous figures in the news, like O.J. Simpson and Britney Spears.

One of the world’s most important television critics, The New Yorker’s Nancy Franklin, takes a hard look at what’s on TV these days and shares her insights through smart, witty and funny reviews.  Often tying in larger societal and political concerns, Franklin’s widely read, highly regarded articles spark debate and force people to seriously consider what they get from what they watch.  She doesn’t shy away from tougher subjects, like pornography and sexism and Sarah Palin, but she’s also happy to give her opinion on shows like MTV’s “Jersey Shore” and “Skins.”

Alex Ross takes a holistic approach to writing about music, contributing critic reviews and essays to The New Yorker along with writing history-based nonfiction books.  As one of the most influential modern music journalists, he regularly contributes articles to The New Yorker, covering traditional classical orchestras, avant-garde performances and the occasional major pop stars like Radiohead and Bjork.  His first book, The Rest is Noise: Listening to the Twentieth Century, documents the “cultural history of music since 1900” while his second, Listen to This, offers a collection of essays that “blur the lines between pop, classical and jazz.”  All of his projects converge in his website, The Rest Is Noise, comprising concert videos, upcoming events, reviews of local performances and links to other music publications. (First quote taken from Ross’s bio in The New Yorker, second from a very enthusiastic review in The Guardian).

Thursday, May 5 @ 2:30 pm: “A Reading, Conversation, and Performance with Josh Ritter and Wesley Stace/John Wesley Harding”

As if having a great voice, handsome good looks and a knack at crafting upbeat, beautiful and sometimes eerie folk/rock songs wasn’t enough, Josh Ritter is now capturing the hearts of the literary world with his latest project, a novel entitled Bright’s Passages due out this June.  For those in love with his tunes, don’t worry – Ritter also released a collection of B-sides and remixes for download on his website.  Expect to do some serious swooning at his live shows.  Read more about Ritter on NPR: All Songs Considered.

See Stace/Harding’s bio above.

Saturday, May 7 @ 6 pm: “A Conversation and Performance with Owen” sponsored by The Musicians’ Guild

Growing up in a musical household and finding fame through family band Cap’n Jazz, Mike Kinsella moved on to solo project Owen in which he composes all the music, plays all the instruments and writes all the lyrics. Combining catchy vocal riffs with detailed, impressive guitar lines and multi-layered instrumentation, Owen finds a sweet mix of upbeat pop and pretty folk with a touch of rock.  His lyrics not only reference multiple literary greats, like Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Raymond Carver, but are also thoughtful, beautiful poetry of their own.

All bios written by Becky Fine-Firesheets.  All photos taken from performers’ websites with the exception of The Fiery Furnaces taken from last.fm, Ben Greenman taken from The New Yorker and Alex Ross taken from The New Yorker.

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