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The Scarlet & Black

Cabinet of Wonders

To add to the collection of Wunderkammern in Bucksbaum this weekend—the current Faulconer Gallery exhibit, “From Wunderkammer to the Modern Museum, 1606-1884,” focuses on the scholarly and artistic contents of “cabinets of wonder”—U.K. musician and novelist Wesley Stace will be bringing his variety show, “Cabinet of Wonders,” to Sebring-Lewis Hall at 7 p.m. this Sunday, Oct. 13.

This show will feature New York-based comedian Todd Barry, poet and musician Kwame Dawes, country musician Robbie Fulks, Welsh musician Jon Langford, musician and writer John Roderick, of indie rock group “The Long Winters,” and “The Sea and Cake” band members Sam Prekop and Archer Prewitt. Each collaborator was handpicked by Wesley Stace to create a balanced display of comedy, music and literature, with many of the artists working in a number of different media to create a fast-paced, engaging dynamic.

“Once I sequence the show and the band has learned the songs and we know what everybody’s doing … the show itself is just like a snowball going down a hill, it’s fantastic. You can’t stop it. … It’s just really a fun show to do,” Stace said in a phone interview with the S&B.

For many years, Stace would publish novels under his legal name, Wesley Stace, and produce music under the stage name, John Wesley Harding. After the release of his 2009 album, “Who Was Changed and Who Was Dead,” his publicist suggested he do a show that brought together his friends in both the writer and music communities. The idea, however, had actually already taken seed much earlier in his career.

“When I started off in London in 1988, I had a show called ‘The John Wesley Harding Medicine Show.’ I didn’t have a very good address book then, or not as good as I have now. I had to get whoever I could get to play this show, and it was very coincidental because it was very much the blueprint of what [my publicist] had suggested,” Stace said. “Afterward, I wanted something a bit more artistic, and I came up with the Cabinet of Wonders concept.”

Wesley Stace’s Cabinet of Wonders started performing at the City Winery venue in New York, then NPR began recording and playing the show on the radio, and people began asking Stace to bring his show to more and more distant venues. According to Stace, this is the first time he and his collaborators have really taken the show on the road.

One aim of this tour is to promote Stace’s most recent album, “Self-Titled,” which is his first to be released under his legal name.

“It’s much more focused than a lot of my previous albums, and it just so happens that all the songs on it … are true and auto-biographical,” Stace said. “It seemed ludicrous to me to make an album under the name John Wesley Harding in which I’m singing about the life of Wesley Stace and referring to myself as Wesley Stace, as well.”

While the album maintains Stace’s singer-songwriter genre, it differs from his previous work not only in the nature of its content, but also in its sound.

“I wanted this album to be very simple sounding, but still with a band and quite lush. I wanted nothing to get in the way of the words so they were totally clear and easily heard and understood,” he said. “Many times I’ve dressed music up in different ways: I’ve done traditional folk albums with just a guitar and mandolin, and I’ve made very bouncy power-pop albums with fantastic backing bands, but on this one I had a much more focused idea of what I wanted it to be and that’s the sound of this record.”

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