Since its inception in 2022, VersoFest has been building to become one of Connecticut's premier music festivals and conferences, featuring a diverse array of local and global talent that has included The Smithereens, Sunflower Bean, renowned producer Steve Lillywhite, Norton Records/Kicks Books/Kicksville Radio co-founder and original Cramps drummer Miriam Linna, Alice Cooper Group Rock & Roll Hall of Famer Dennis Dunaway, Aretha Franklin/Ray Charles songwriter Joshie Jo Armstead, Psychedelic Furs frontman and painter Richard Butler, and hip hop pioneer DJ Grand Wizzard Theodore.

Spanning five days for this year's edition, April 3 through April 7, The Westport Library's annual music and media festival and conference features Verso Visionaries: Chuck D in conversation with Akashic Books publisher Johnny Temple (Wednesday, April 3), and David Bowie, T. Rex, and Thin Lizzy music producer Tony Visconti in conversation with WFUV's Paul Cavalconte (Saturday, April 6, at 1 pm), both previously announced, and now adding music legend John Densmore in conversation with CNN's Alisyn Camerota Saturday afternoon at 4:30 pm.

John Densmore by Jeff Katz Photography

Densmore is the drummer for the legendary rock band The Doors, which has sold more than 100 million albums worldwide. In 1993, he was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, and since then, he has earned a GRAMMY Lifetime Achievement Award and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Densmore's latest book, The Doors Unhinged, details his conflict with bandmates over the right to use The Doors’ name, revealing the ways in which this struggle mirrors and reflects a much larger societal issue.

Tom Waits said of the book, "There are some of us out there who still have principles and cannot be bought. John Densmore is one of them. He is not for sale and that is his gift to us.”

Camerota joins Densmore, returning to The Westport Library on the heels of her March 27 memoir launch event of Combat Love. While known for her reporting presence, Camerota came of age during late 1970s punk rock, forming close bonds with Red Bank, New Jersey band Shrapnel. The band's 1979 single "Combat Love" features backing vocals from Shrapnel confidant Joey Ramone and is being reissued as a limited 7-inch record with Camerota's memoir.

The Lemon Twigs, DJ HYSTERICA, Nick Depuy, and Spin Doctors: Concert headliners of VersoFest 2024

VersoFest 2024 concerts and performances include recent Tonight Show featured rockers The Lemon Twigs with DJ HYSTERICA on Thursday April 4, and '90s hitmakers Spin Doctors with singer-songwriter Nick Depuy on Friday April 5.

Audrey Golden, author of "I Thought I Heard You Speak: Women At Factory Records" with "New Haven Independent's" Karen Ponzio

Rooted in Connecticut's burgeoning music and arts scenes, VersoFest also features panels and workshops all day Saturday and Sunday. Highlights include a midday Saturday Verso Book Club event featuring Audrey Golden, author of I Thought I Heard You Speak: Women At Factory Records, in conversation with New Haven Independent's Karen Ponzio; a Sunday panel on the wild lore of WPLR's 1975 Fleetwood Mac broadcast from Trod Nossel Studios featuring an early incarnation of the Stevie Nicks and Lindsay Buckingham era with broadcaster Dick Kalt and special guests, moderated by singer-songwriter Dr. Jennifer Dauphinais; and a Pitch Your Podcast Panel by CT Public with CT Public Senior Director Meg Dalton and Peabody Award winning Uncivil podcaster and writer Jack Hitt.

L to R: Christine Ohlman and Cindy Dunaway, Tish & Snooky of Manic Panic

Sunday, April 7, features the return of VersoFest's popular live music oral history podcast with "Glam to Punk — A Fashion Round Table: Alice Cooper, Bowie, Blondie and Beyond" featuring Cindy Dunaway, Tish & Snooky (Manic Panic), and special guest Dennis Dunaway (original Alice Cooper Group bassist), moderated by SNL Band singer and frequent Westport Library collaborator Christine Ohlman.

“From a first-year participant in 2022, I’ve watched VersoFest’s super-cool evolution, spreading its colorful wings in an increasingly unique way to touch and enrich the artistic life of the community," said Ohlman. "And in the process, to offer some phenomenal, top-of-the line entertainment. I'm delighted to once again be a part of VersoFest 2024.”

Dunaway served as costume designer to the Alice Cooper Group from their formative Phoenix, Arizona, days to stadium shows. The band's Liberace- and Busby Berkeley-inspired glitter wear caught the eye of David Bowie and Elton John, cementing the style and aesthetics of the "glam" era. In a parallel universe, Tish and Snooky's gorgeously Punk’d costumes — self-designed, razor-bladed, safety-pinned and schoolgirl-skirted — lit up stages (along with their vocals, beginning with the earliest lineup of Blondie), in NYC and beyond, leading then to open the nation’s first punk boutique and found the groundbreaking Manic Panic cosmetic line. 

L to R: VersoFest Record Fair presented by Record Riots; Paul Breton's "Diamond Dogs at 50" David Bowie exhibit with stage designer Mark Ravitz

Saturday and Sunday also feature a record fair curated by Record Riots, set up in the Hub on the Library's main floor. In addition, collector and curator Paul Brenton is bringing a "Diamond Dogs at 50" David Bowie exhibit, featuring the original stage models from the 1974 Diamond Dogs tour and other rare ephemera. Pioneering stage designer Mark Ravitz will be in attendance, having designed numerous Bowie tour sets (Diamond Dogs, Glass Spiders, and Serious Moonlight tours) as well as stages for KISS, Whitney Houston, and Backstreet Boys.

"Wild Style" and Fairfield County native Tony Tone of the Cold Crush Brothers

The festival concludes with a celebration of hip hop's first motion picture, Wild Style, featuring Tony Tone of the Cold Crush Brothers, the return of Grand Wizzard Theodore, as well as Prince Whipper Whip, DJ Ultamite, Grand Master Caz, JDL, Easy AD, Almighty Kay Gee, and Rodney C.

Food trucks will be on site throughout the weekend in the library parking lot to supplement the many offerings of the Library Café.

All VersoFest performances, panels, and workshops are free or at market rates thanks to the generous support of donors, community partners, and Library programming funds. A selection of events will be recorded by Verso Studios Crew Call and available on-demand at a later date.

The complete VersoFest 2024 schedule and information can be found here.

"Two Princes" and "Little Miss Can't Be Wrong" are just two of the '90s rock anthems that will be chiming through the Trefz Forum at Verso Studios in The Westport Library on April 5, as the iconic rockers the Spin Doctors headline the Friday Night Concert presented by Webster Bank at VersoFest 2024, the Library's annual music and media festival.

Local singer-songwriter Nick Depuy opens at 7 pm, with Spin Doctors taking the stage at 8 pm. Doors open at 6:30 pm. Tickets are $50 and available now.

VersoFest is The Westport Library's annual music and media festival and conference, spanning five days for this year's edition, April 3 through April 7. Converging local with global, previous VersoFests have presented concerts with The Smithereens and Sunflower Bean, as well as events with renowned producer Steve Lillywhite, Norton Records/Kicks Books/Kicksville Radio co-founder and original Cramps drummer Miriam Linna, Alice Cooper Group Rock & Roll Hall of Famer Dennis Dunaway, Psychedelic Furs frontman and painter Richard Butler, author and journalist Rachel Felder, and hip hop pioneer DJ Grand Wizzard Theodore.

VersoFest 2024 luminaries announced so far include legendary musician, activist, and author Chuck D, acclaimed David Bowie, T. Rex, and Thin Lizzy music producer Tony Visconti, and electric power pop rockers The Lemon Twigs, with the full VersoFest schedule to be released next week. All VersoFest performances, panels, and workshops are free or at market rates thanks to the generous support of donors, community partners, and Library programming funds.

Verso Studios present state of the arts concerts with a d&b sound system rivaling the finest venues in the state, an 18 foot HD screen, and multicamera recording capability. Standing capacity is 600-plus, providing audiences with an intimate and unique experience.

With more than 12 million albums sold, the GRAMMY-nominated Spin Doctors are rounding 30-plus years in rock 'n' roll with a seventh studio album and world tour on the way. The band's mythology began at New York’s New School University in the fall of ’88, when a fateful door-knock sparked the first meeting of drummer Aaron Comess and guitarist Eric Schenkman. Performing as the Trucking Company, Schenkman, John Popper, and Chris Barron were creating buzz. But when Popper committed himself to Blues Traveler, the remnants sought new direction. Having assured Schenkman that he’d “check them out,” Comess formed a ferocious rhythm section with Bronx-raised bassist Mark White. “When I first met them,” recalled White, “I thought, ‘These are some funky-assed white boys.’"

The nascent Spin Doctors lineup hit the Lower Manhattan music scene. Flexing their musicianship and announcing their elastic approach to live performance with jams that stretched to the outer reaches, the band’s glorious ability to supercharge a tune was in evidence on 1991’s debut live release, Up For Grabs, where some tracks stormed beyond 10 minutes. They didn’t know it yet, but the Spin Doctors — alongside peers like Blues Traveler, Phish, and Widespread Panic — would drag the jam-band ethos into the ’90s era, their DNA later dripping into the scene’s post-millennial resurgence.

The Spin Doctors' craft and originality carried them into a deal with Epic Records, setting up the Pocket Full Of Kryptonite album that defined early-90s rock. “There was a feeling of magic in the band,” reflected lead singer Barron, “and a belief in the air. That first record felt really innocent."

The success of Pocket Full Of Kryptonite blossomed at the height of music industry popular monoculture. The dominance over format (CDs and cassettes) and media outlets (MTV, print, radio) was the one-two punch leading to an explosion of album sales.

"When we were selling 50,000 records a week," Barron said. "I’d walk into a mall to buy underwear and 300 kids would surround me."

"Two Princes" rose to #4 on the Top 100 singles chart as one of the top rock 'n' roll radio singles of 1993. The band cinched a Rolling Stone cover and Sesame Street appearance.

The follow-ups to Pocket Full Of Kryptonite were 1996's You’ve Got To Believe In Something and 1999’s Here Comes The Bride, both of which featured lineup changes within the band. Just two weeks before Bride's release, Barron was struck with a rare acute form of vocal cord paralysis that affected him for a year.

In 2001, with Barron recovered, the Spin Doctors classic lineup reconvened to play the closing of Manhattan's legendary Wetlands club, where the band cut their teeth in their formative days. 2005's Nice Talking To Me found the Spin Doctors working with esteemed producer Matt Wallace (Faith No More, The Replacements, O.A.R., Maroon 5) at L.A.'s historic Sound City studio, and their 2013 release, If The River Was Whiskey, featured gritty blues songs harkening back to their origin.

Spin Doctors live, Photo by Krupek Paweł Krupka

All that sets the stage for what's to come, with a new album in the works.

“For the next album,” said Barron, “I kinda want to stay spontaneous. I’d personally like to make a quarter-turn and do a rock record. But I have a feeling it’s gonna get funky. Y’know, there’s that great quote from Keith Richards when he went to meet Mick Jagger at AIR Studios to make Steel Wheels. And he told his wife, ‘I’ll either be back tomorrow or in a month.’"

Opening the VersoFest April 5 concert is Connecticut singer-songwriter Nick Depuy, who boasts a unique sound rooted in old time folk, country rock, jazz, and blues. At 16, Depuy was mentored by Bruce Lundvall of Blue Note, Elektra, and Columbia Records, who called Depuy "the next James Taylor."

Depuy has shared the stage with legendary singer-songwriter Jimmy Webb, Neil Finn of Crowded House, and art-rock legends Procol Harum. Depuy's music has been featured on WPLR 99.1, ABC Channel 8, CBS WTIC 1080, and in performance at tri-state area venues including Fairfield Stage One, the Bijou Theater, Ridgefield Playhouse, the Gathering of the Vibes Music Festival, The Rockwood Music Hall, The Living Room, Arlene’s Grocery, Joe’s Pub in NYC, and the Connecticut Folk Festival, where he was both a “new artist” and “new songwriter” finalist.

Depuy’s debut LP, Don't Be Sorry, is available on streaming services.

All VersoFest 2024 concerts are co-produced with the Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce.

Photo by Travis Shinn

Revolutionary, hip hop icon, social activist, author, film producer, and digital music pioneer. Few can hold these titles with the impact and influence that Chuck D has had on modern pop culture and philosophy.

The leader and co-founder of legendary group Public Enemy, and part of the supergroup Prophets of Rage, will discuss his life, work, and recent graphic novel STEWdio: The Naphic Grovel ARTrilogy of Chuck D on Wednesday, April 3, at 7 pm in the VersoFest 2024 Kickoff Conversation presented by Darcy Travlos.

Chuck D will be in conversation with Akashic Books publisher Johnny Temple, with media host, entrepreneur, and music executive June Archer introducing the guest of honor.

The event will be held in the Library's Trefz Forum. Tickets are $50 and available for purchase here.

VersoFest is The Westport Library's annual music and media festival and conference, spanning five days from April 3 through April 7. Converging local with global, VersoFest has presented concerts with The Smithereens and Sunflower Bean, as well as events with renowned producer Steve Lillywhite, Norton Records/Kicks Books/Kicksville Radio co-founder and original Cramps drummer Miriam Linna, Alice Cooper Group Rock & Roll Hall of Famer Dennis Dunaway, Psychedelic Furs frontman and painter Richard Butler, author and journalist Rachel Felder, and hip hop pioneer DJ Grand Wizzard Theodore. Initial VersoFest 2024 luminaries include Legendary David Bowie, T. Rex, and Thin Lizzy music producer Tony Visconti, and electric power pop rockers The Lemon Twigs, with a full VersoFest schedule to be released in coming weeks. All performances, panels, and workshops are free or at market rates with the generous support of donors, community partners, and Library programming funds.

"We are absolutely thrilled to have Chuck D of Public Enemy join us at The Westport Library," said Westport Library Executive Director Bill Harmer. "His groundbreaking contributions to music and social activism have made a profound impact on our culture, and we can't wait for our community to engage with his incredible insights and talent."

Chuck D first rose to acclaim in the 1980s with a string of critically lauded and commercially successful albums that addressed weighty issues about race, rage, and inequality. Present day, The New York Times has named Public Enemy’s It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back to their list of the “25 Most Significant Albums of the Last Century,” and in 2005, The Library of Congress added Fear of a Black Planet to its National Recording Registry. 

In 2013, Public Enemy was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. When the new National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C., began curating its archive, the group was asked to donate iconic items from its history. In 2020, Public Enemy received a Lifetime Achievement Award at the GRAMMYs. This year, “Fight The Power” was named #2 on Rolling Stone magazine’s 2021 list of 500 Greatest Songs of All Time (which also included “Bring The Noise”).

"I wanted to curate, present, navigate, teach, and lead the hip hop art, making it something that people would revere," Chuck D told Kelefah Sanneh of The New Yorker in February 2023. "I was educated in the arts ever since I was a little kid. My mother started Roosevelt Community Theater in 1973 in Roosevelt (New York). I was under Frank Frazier's tutelage as an art teacher [in] 1972. I go to Adelphi University to become a commercial artist. But as what? I had no idea. Hip hop as an idea got me through college."

In June 2016, Chuck D debuted Prophets of Rage, a new “supergroup” with former Rage Against the Machine members Tom Morello, Tim Commerford, and Brad Wilk, plus Cypress Hill’s B-Real and DJ Lord of Public Enemy. He formed Enemy Radio in 2019, the DJ-MC sound system component of Public Enemy and toured throughout Europe with Wu-Tang and De La Soul.

Ever the media polymath, Chuck D is also a visual artist whose work has been shown in galleries nationwide, a best-selling author (including 2017’s 300-page This Day In Rap and Hip Hop History), a highly sought-after speaker on the college lecture circuit, a prominent member of music industry nonprofit organizations MusicCares and Rock The Vote, and a record label founder of SpitSlam.

Chuck D also has served as national spokesperson for Rock The Vote, the National Urban League, the National Alliance of African American Athletes, and Hip Hop Public Health. In 2018, he was named the chairman of the Celebrity Board for the Universal Hip Hop Museum in New York.

In February 2020, Chuck D turned his gaze once again to the page and filled three 5x8 journals with his written and drawn reflections of a world beginning to unravel. STEWdio: The Naphic Grovel ARTrilogy of Chuck D recreates the format of his original art, combining three full-color paperback bound books into a beautiful box set. The box set is the inaugural offering from Enemy Books, the new Akashic Books imprint curated by the artist and author himself.

As Akaschic Books characterizes the volume: "Spanning the onset of COVID-19 through the first year of the Joe 'Bye-Don' administration, Chuck D lends his powerful artistic voice to one of the most tumultuous periods in American history, and puts it in a capsule. Like the neo-expressionist graffiti art of Jean-Michel Basquiat, Chuck D’s energetic “Naphic Grovels” marry text with drawings, commenting on contemporary events with the same activist instinct that propelled Public Enemy’s 'music-with-a-message' reputation. His inventive, Amiri Baraka–esque language and accompanying art is also occasionally used as a tool for introspection, providing unparalleled insight into one of the most important cultural figures of our time."

Robyn Hitchcock

"Paintings you can listen to": That's the way Robyn Hitchcock describes his songs.

One of England's most enduring contemporary singer/songwriters and live performers will grace the stage of Verso Studios at The Westport Library on Sunday, April 28. Doors open at 3 pm, and Hitchcock hitting the stage at 4 pm. Tickets are $30 and on sale now.

The concert is presented in partnership with Fernando Pinto Presents / East Rock Concert Series, a legendary, independent promoter who for 40 years has brought the likes of Nirvana, Alex Chilton, Bo Diddley, and many other foundational artists to Connecticut stages.

Verso Studios, a media resource and cultural center housed in a five-star library, is quite the fitting venue for rock 'n' roll's foremost literary gadfly. A surrealist poet, talented guitarist, cult artist, and musician's musician, Hitchcock is among alternative rock's father figures and is the closest thing the genre has to a Bob Dylan (not coincidentally his biggest musical inspiration). Since founding the art-rock band The Soft Boys in 1976, Hitchcock has recorded more than 20 albums as well as starred in Storefront Hitchcock, an in-concert film recorded in New York and directed by Jonathan Demme.

Hitchcock's most recent album is self-titled and marks his 21st release as a solo artist. He describes it as an "ecstatic work of negativity with nary a dreary groove."

Robyn Hitchcock has received rave reviews from UNCUT, Rolling Stone, Paste, Tidal, and more.

"A gifted melodist, Hitchcock nests engaging lyrics in some of the most bracing, rainbow-hued pop this side of Revolver. He wrests inspiration not from ordinary life but from extraordinary imaginings..." - Rolling Stone

"These 10 gems slither, rock, roll, glide and shapeshift, coalescing around Hitchcock’s typically anxious, strained but striking and immediately identifiable vocals." - American Songwriter

"Beloved of everyone from Led Zeppelin to REM, Hitchcock has only enhanced his status with this wonderful outing." - Hot Press

"Witty, moving and seriously catchy, Robyn Hitchcock is a glorious return for a man who wasn’t really gone in the first place." - Paste

“They’re so out of left field in their songs. They don’t have any rules in their songs and that’s sometimes the way it should be. … Hey guys, I’m dying to meet you, keep making great music.”

-Elton John, on The Lemon Twigs

The indie rock/pop band the Lemon Twigs will lead the VersoFest 2024 kickoff concert on Thursday, April 4, in the Library’s Trefz Forum. Tickets are on sale now for $20. Doors open at 6:30 pm with WFMU and WHUS favorite DJ HYSTERICA spinning her all-vinyl oeuvre of power pop, punk, greasy soul, and yé-yé. The show begins at 7:30 pm with a forthcoming local opener.

The Lemon Twigs pull from a wide range of multigenerational inspirations, darting from twee chamber pop balladry to full-on glam punk, mixing plaintive singer-songwriter confessionals with an almost Syd Barrett sense of outré pop. Their sound has said to harken back to the vocal melody of Art Garfunkel and chamber pop of Brian Wilson, and they cite among their influences Moondog and Arthur Russell.

The New York-based group is led by the brothers Brian and Michael D’Addario and is currently touring behind its fourth full-length studio release, Everything Harmony. That follows their 2016 debut, Do Hollywood, and their follow-ups Go to School (2018) and Songs for the General Public (2020).

The Lemon Twigs are longtime friends and tourmates of Sunflower Bean, which headlined the Thursday night VersoFest 2023 slot. This past October, Local WPKN DJ Alec Cumming of Snap Crackle POP! (father of Julia Cumming from Sunflower Bean) produced a radio documentary of the Lemon Twigs, weaving songs and an exclusive interview with the D’Addario brothers.

The VersoFest 2024 kickoff concert date is preceded by 2023 California winter dates with legendary dB’s singer-songwriter/producer Chris Stamey. From VersoFest, the Lemon Twigs are slated to perform at Primavera Sound Barcelona 2024, one of the world’s premier pop/rock/underground electronic and dance music festivals, alongside Pulp, PJ Harvey, the National, Lana Del Ray, and Amyl and the Sniffers.

Recently playing numerous tracks from Everything Harmony on his BBC6 Iggy Confidential radio show, proto-punk icon Iggy Pop exclaimed, “Lemon Twigs, they’re over-talented, that’s all I can say about the Lemon Twigs. Wow! These guys can do a whole lot of things, and they do. They leave me scratchin’ my head always, but it’s always super fine.”

The Lemon Twigs have appeared on recent albums by Weyes Blood and Todd Rundgren, who said that the band has “a built-in appreciation for music that is of a couple of generations before theirs. I think they were bored by the music of their own generation, and since you can’t fast forward to the music of the future, you just start going backwards to music that was made before you were born.”

All VersoFest 2024 concerts are co-produced with the Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce.

David Bowie, T. Rex, Thin Lizzy — titans of rock ‘n’ roll music, all connected by the iconic touches of legendary producer, arranger, and VersoFest 2024 keynote subject Tony Visconti.

Visconti will be in conversation with WFUV's Paul Cavalconte for The Westport Library's third annual music and media festival on Saturday, April 6 at 1 pm, discussing his art and career as one of pop music’s longest working and most influential producers. This event is free and requires registration, tickets are available now via this link.

Beyond music, Visconti has created moments blooming into cultural movements (glam rock), art linked to collective memory in T. Rex’s “Get It On (Bang A Gong),” “Cosmic Dancer,” and “20th Century Boy” and Bowie’s “The Man Who Sold The World,” “Rebel Rebel,” and “Heroes.” Lifetime achievements, GRAMMY Awards, film and TV soundtracks, and many other honors celebrate Visconti’s production and arrangement vision, which also includes collaborations with Paul McCartney & Wings (for their famed Band on the Run album), U2, Bert Jansch, Angelique Kidjo, Luscious Jackson, Alejandro Escovedo, the Strawbs, Fall Out Boy, Gentle Giant, Mercury Rev, Sparks, Badfinger, The Moody Blues, The Alarm, Kristeen Young, and D-Generation. In addition, Visconti recently arranged the strings on New Haven musician and former Verso Studios Connecticut Music Oral History Podcast guest Kelly Reilly’s “Happiness Lasts.” 

“Now in its third year, VersoFest 2024 is shaping up to be another impressive and inspiring weekend for creators and fans alike. Announcing the legendary Tony Visconti, who has been at the helm of countless cultural touchstones is a tremendous launch for our 2024 program,” said Westport Library Executive Director Bill Harmer. 

VersoFest 2024 is a four-day music festival and conference happening Thursday, April 4, through Sunday, April 7. VersoFest includes panels where experts share their perspective and vision. Intimate workshops provide creators the opportunity to deconstruct, improve, and hone their craft. Performances entertain and inspire.

Previous years have featured a diverse and eclectic mix of performers and subjects including the Smithereens, Sunflower Bean, Grand Wizzard Theodore (inventor of scratch DJing), producer Steve Lillywhite (U2, Talking Heads, Dave Matthews Band), Richard Butler (Psychedelic Furs), Dennis Dunaway (Alice Cooper), Miriam Linna (Norton Records, Kicks Books, Kicksville Radio), actor/producer Michael Jai White, Little Steven’s TeachRock Foundation, Connecticut Public, and many more.  

Visconti is currently touring the globe celebrating the release of the new 77-track box set Produced by Tony Visconti. Visconti told popular music blog Super Deluxe Edition, “This boxset covers five-and-a-half decades of my efforts in the art of making iconic recordings. Some of it is familiar and some will have a eureka moment, ‘I didn’t know Visconti produced that one!’” 

If reading is a solitary act, the form of the book galvanizes us for communal discussion, debate, and celebration. Established in 2002, WestportREADS continues the storied tradition of reading a book together to strengthen community engagement in literature. 

The 2024 WestportREADS selection is The Art Thief by Michael Finkel, the true-crime tale of the world’s most prolific art thief, Stéphane Breitwieser, who stole, never for money, but for personal treasure and adoration. 

Select copies of the book are available for borrowing now at The Westport Library, with the full complement of WestportREADS volumes arriving in December. The Art Thief is also available as a digital copy (e-book) and as an audiobook. 

A full slate of programming centered on The Art Thief begins in early January. The capstone event will be held Friday, January 26, when Finkel appears in-person at the Library to deliver the WestportREADS keynote address (registration coming soon).

“We are excited to convene around Michael Finkel’s The Art Thief in Westport’s annual celebration of literature,” said Westport Library Executive Director Bill Harmer. “Finkel is a writer who simultaneously pushes the boundaries of truth while searching for it. The Art Thief narrative gives us the twists and turns of any great true-crime story while raising existential questions on art, capital, and values.” 

Finkel (True Story: Murder, Memoir, Mea Culpa; The Stranger in the Woods: The Extraordinary Story of the Last True Hermit) is a journalist and best-selling memoirist hailing from Northern Utah. After a prosperous run as a New York Times reporter, Finkel was terminated for compositing quotes in the 2001 story Is Youssouf Malé A Slave?

Shortly afterward, Finkel discovered that Oregon murderer Christian Longo used “Michael Finkel” as an alias. Finkel reached out to Longo, forging a relationship that served as the basis for True Story: Murder, Memoir, Mea Culpa. The book was adapted for film in 2015’s True Story, premiering at Sundance Film Festival, starring Jonah Hill, James Franco, and Felicity Jones.

Finkel’s follow-up, The Stranger in the Woods: The Extraordinary Story of the Last True Hermit, chronicled Christopher Knight, an intentional recluse who lived for 27 years in the woods of Maine with almost no human interaction, surviving by grifting life essentials. Vanity Fair contributing editor and ABC News special correspondent Stephen Junger raved that The Stranger in the Woods was "a story that takes the two primary human relationships — to nature and to one another — and deftly upends our assumptions about both.” 

Finkel’s The Art Thief arrives with similar acclaim. Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Kathryn Schulz wrote in The New Yorker, “The Art Thief, like its title character, has confidence, élan, and a great sense of timing. It is propelled by suspense and surprises. … This ultra-lucrative, odds-defying crime streak is wonderfully narrated by Finkel, in a tale whose trajectory is less rise and fall than crazy and crazier. ... Part of what makes Finkel’s book so much fun is that, without exception, [Breitwieser’s] strategies are insane.” 

Finkel told Esquire, “Working on this book changed the way I experience museums and commune with a work of art. Breitwieser is often low energy; then, when he walks into a museum, it’s like he’s had a triple shot of espresso. This is someone who’s very parsimonious with his words, then suddenly he’s babbling like your favorite crazy art professor. I would watch his face as he stood in front of an artwork. If he didn't like something, it was a flat face. If he liked something, it was as if he’d been electrocuted, and he’d often look around the room to see if he could commune alone with it. 

Past WestportREADS selections include Firekeeper’s Daughter by Angeline Boulley, The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab, Towards a More Perfect Union: Confronting Racism by Layla Saad, and Exit West by Moshin Hamid, among others.

For more past WestportREADS selections, and to learn more about the annual event, visit the WestportREADS homepage on The Westport Library website. 

WestportREADS is supported through a generous bequest by the estate of Jerry A. Tishman.


Photo credit for Michael Finkel photo: Doug Loneman

Oscar-nominated filmmaker and 32 Sounds Director Sam Green

Academy-Award nominated filmmaker Sam Green continually pushes the bounds of theatrical experience with live score/narrated documentaries like The Love Song of R. Buckminster Fuller with Yo La Tengo, A Thousand Thoughts with the Kronos Quartet, and Green’s defining tour de force, The Weather Underground, chronicling the rise and fall of the radical political organization.

On Friday, December 8, at 6:30 pm, the Lundberg Family Foundation Master Film Series welcomes Green’s latest Sundance and SXSW selected documentary, 32 Sounds. Green will be in attendance for a post-screening Q&A with the audience. This event is free and requires registration.

32 Sounds is described as “a meditation on the power of sound to bend time, cross borders, and profoundly shape our perception of the world around us.” In creation of a “wholly unique, sensory rich experience,” the film lives up to its promise. Each member of the audience is given their own set of headphones for a special immersive binaural audio experience (a kind of spatial sound technology that gives the listener a much clearer sense of space).

Ever the form and technology trailblazer, Green developed the film through a creative residency at MASS MOCA in North Adams, Massachusetts, with Stanford University, Arizona University, and NYU, among others, serving as film commission partners.

“Normally, we think of movies as a visual medium, and they are, to an extent. The sound is always seen as a second-class citizen,” Green told Seventh Row. “This movie was hard to make. It’s almost like that cliché of a sculptor who allows the sculpture to come out of the stone, which sounds corny, but there’s something to it. As you work the material, you start to realize why you’re drawn to this, and what it is that is getting to you. That takes a lot of time and struggle.”

The 32 Sounds filmmaking team includes, among others, Oscar-winning and five-time Oscar-nominated sound designer Mark Mangini, multi-talented composer JD Samson, and celebrated producer and Oscar nominee Josh Penn.

Mangini won his Oscars for Dune and Mad Max Fury Road and is also known for films like Blade Runner 2049, Star Treks I, IV, and V, The Fifth Element, and Gremlins.

Samson is best known as leader of the band MEN and for being one-third of the electronic-feminist-punk band and performance project, Le Tigre.

Penn has been nominated for an Oscar for Best Picture, Outstanding Producer at the Producer’s Guild Awards, and has won a Peabody Award. He has premiered a dozen films at Sundance since 2012, garnering five awards from the festival. He has produced Beasts of the Southern Wild (Sundance Grand Jury Prize, Cannes Caméra d’Or, and four Oscar nominations, including Best Picture), Monsters and Men (Sundance Special Jury Prize), and the series Philly D.A. (Gotham and Peabody Award winner).

The Westport Library’s Lundberg Family Foundation Masters Film Series showcases films and filmmakers, celebrating contemporary masters, innovative new voices, and emerging artists. Previously the series debuted the Connecticut premiere of Larry Locke’s documentary, Heaven Stood Still: The Incarnations of Willy DeVille, followed by master class sessions.

Rembrandt, Vermeer, and Degas, legends in the canon of painting, gone in minutes, as 13 priceless works of art disappeared from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston in the dawning hours of March 18, 1990.  

On the hinge of 2024’s WestportREADS selection, The Art Thief, by Michael Finkel, comes Westport Library’s Vanished program, Thursday, November 16, 7-8 pm. The event is free with registration

Vanished features Stephen Kurkjian, journalist and author of the definitive book on the heist, Master Thieves, and Robert Wittman, retired FBI agent and author (with John Shiffman) of The New York Times best-selling memoir, Priceless: How I Went Undercover to Rescue the World’s Stolen Treasures. Architect, academic, and Fulbright Specialist Allen Swerdlowe will present and moderate the discussion, delving into the Gardner Museum, the stolen pieces of art, the suspects, and the theories in the world’s biggest theft of art objects from a single institution. 

“There are mysteries inside of mysteries inside the story," Swerdlowe told Westport Library Director of Strategic Community Partnerships Jennifer Bangser on the WPKN Open Book radio hour.  

“One of which is that there was a painting called Chez Tortoni that was stolen from a room that nobody entered. Some of the authorities believe that there were two robberies that night. The story is complicated by the fact that the thieves were in the museum for 81 minutes. Robberies like this typically take a few minutes. ... It suggests the thieves knew they would not be apprehended.”  

The mystery twists through rock ‘n’ rollers moonlighting as security (or vice versa), fake police arrests, and a potential Connecticut connection. These puzzling Garnder heist details and dead ends have consumed all included for 33 years. 

Kurkjian is a 40-year veteran of The Boston Globe, serving as the paper’s former Washington bureau chief and a founding member of its investigative Spotlight Team. He has won more than 25 national and regional awards, including the Pulitzer Prize on three occasions. Kurkjian covered much of the investigation into the heist while in The Globe newsroom and has remained on the story since. He co-produced the award-winning podcast Last Seen with WBUR-FM radio in Boston, and has appeared in numerous documentaries on the case, including This is a Robbery, a four-part Netflix series, and others on the History Channel and CNN.

Wittman joined the FBI as a special agent in 1988, receiving detailed training in art, antiques, jewelry, and gem identification, taking on the role of the FBI’s investigative expert in art and cultural property crime investigations. Written with 2009 Pulitzer Prize Finalist Shiffman, Priceless follows Wittman through his career with the FBI, providing a first-perspective account of some of the most well-known art heists in modern history (including Gardner) and the undercover FBI stings that sought to foil them. 

“It’s fascinating because of the fact that nothing was ever seen again,” Swerdlowe said of the crime. “It’s fascinating because everybody thinks they know the answer, and in all in cases it’s not the answer they thought it was.” 

This fall, comic art, deconstructed case-bound book boards, and visual mixed media all grace the walls of The Westport Library gallery spaces, collecting the unique works of local artists with national attention including Marc Zaref, Niki Ketchman, Rowan MacColl, and Connor McCann.

Connor McCann's instructive exhibition panel

Coinciding with the Neil Gaiman StoryFest Keynote Conversation and Fall 2023 Malloy Lecture in the Arts lecture (Friday, October 20) is the visual companion in the Sheffer Gallery, Panels & Gutters: The Comic Art of Rowan MacColl and Connor McCann.

The exhibition celebrates the form storytelling in comic art featuring MacColl's and McCann’s illustrations with added panels demonstrating their conceptual and technical process. MacColl and McCann are both recent graduates of Staples High School and the Rhode Island School of Design, navigating the art scene with great success.

Rowan MacColl's process panel for Panels & Gutters: The Comic Art of Rowan MacColl and Connor McCann

MacColl is a comic artist and illustrator whose work has been published in various anthologies and art fairs. MacColl’s latest graphic novel, Who Was Accused in the Salem Witch Trials?: Tituba will be published in September 2023 by Penguin Random House.

McCann is a cartoonist and designer. His critically acclaimed graphic novel God Bless The Machine was published and distributed internationally by Strangers Publishing in 2021, and the highly anticipated follow-up will be released this fall.

The opening reception and artist talk (Thursday, October 19, reception 6-7 pm, artist talk 7-8 pm) will have MacColl and McCann reuniting with their former art teacher, fellow artist, and Westport Artists Collective member Katherine Ross. The conversation will focus on MacColl and McCann’s transition from college to the art world, freelance commissions, the role of social media in art promotion, and their upcoming graphic novels.

Cascade 2023, by multidisciplinary artist Zaref, features a Jesup Gallery site-specific designed installation of recycled, deconstructed case-bound book boards.

“Cascade, along with its description of falling water, is a term in music referencing a progression of notes,” said Zaref. “I took advantage of an unusual feature—a partially open ceiling, a place to begin a cascade, the illusion of an unknown source of the piece—not unlike an underground stream or the mind of a musician.”

The South Gallery hosts Ketchman’s Resinations with mixed media resin 12" x 12" visual works. Over the years, Ketchman has exhibited extensively, including one-person museum exhibitions at the Katonah Museum, the New Britain Museum of American Art, and the DeCordova Museum and Sculpture Park. Reviews of her work have appeared in The New York Times, Art in America, Sculpture Magazine, and The Boston Globe, among others.

"I start each piece with a 12" x 12" stretched canvas. Then I either paint on the surface of the canvas or adhere a digital print of one of my photos that has often been manipulated in Photoshop,” said Ketchman.

“Once I have the initial image, I spread out many of my materials on a worktable in my studio: fabrics, beads, string, wire, metal ornaments, lace, etc. This is my palette. Once I am satisfied, I pour resin over the whole piece. The resin coating makes the whole piece feel more like an object than a painting or collage. With its shiny and indestructible surface, it is now a Resination."

The two former exhibitions celebrated with an opening reception and artist talk on August 29 moderated by Westport Artist Collective co-founder Miggs Burroughs.

All three exhibitions run through October 25.


Rounding out the art activity at The Westport Library is The Westport Artists Collective “Affordable Art Trunk Show and Sale” on Sunday, October 1, from 11 am to 4 pm in the lower parking lot adjacent to the Library and Jesup Green (Taylor Lot).

Around 40 members of the Artists Collective of Westport will be displaying their artwork out of the trunk of their cars — all for sale at affordable prices. The Artists Collective of Westport is a vibrant group of 150 creative individuals who have joined forces to discuss, create, and develop dynamic experiences for the Fairfield County community. The collective is open to all active artists in pursuit of expanding their careers and in developing a strong, diverse arts community.


Artists pictured at top of page, clockwise from top left: Niki Ketchman, Connor McCann, Rowan MacColl (self portrait), and Marc Zaref

Bruce Springsteen calls him “phenomenal.” Lou Reed said he could watch him “play for hours.” And Jeff Buckley exclaimed, “magical guitarness.”

Gary Lucas, one of the world’s foremost rock guitarists, hits StoryFest 2023 at The Westport Library on Sunday October, 22, from 2 to 4 pm in the Trefz Forum, accompanying George Melford’s 1931 Spanish-Language Dracula film with a live acoustic and electric guitar score.

Just a week before the ramp-up to Halloween 2023, the timely event is open to all ages and is free with registration.

Now in its sixth year, StoryFest is the largest literary festival in Connecticut and one of the biggest annual literary festivals in the Northeast. This year’s edition will be held October 20-22. Friday night will feature the sold-out keynote conversation featuring legendary writer Neil Gaiman, followed Saturday with panel discussions and author conversations, capped by a special reading of Eric LaRocca's new play, Gentle Hacksaw.

In addition to Lucas's performance, Sunday will include a special children's event with Pinkalicious author Victoria Kann and PitchFest at StoryFest, a five-hour paid workshop (12-5 pm) from Bloom Writers' Studio that will provide aspiring authors with an opportunity to speak to literary agents about their book, as well as provide tips on how to find the right literary agent. The event, to be held in the Library's Komansky Room, will be hosted by local authors T.M. Dunn, Marcia Bradley, and Tessa Smith McGovern.

“StoryFest has always been a celebration of all forms and genres of storytelling," said StoryFest co-founder and Westport Library Associate Director of Programming and Events Alex Giannini. “In a year of impressive guests, including authors Neil Gaiman, Caroline Kepnes, and Stephen Graham Jones, I am honored to welcome guitarist Gary Lucas accompanying George Melford’s Spanish-Language Dracula, with what will undoubtedly be a jaw-dropping live guitar score for Halloween season for the StoryFest '23 finale.”

A GRAMMY-nominated songwriter, international recording artist, and (Connecticut connection) Yale graduate, Lucas is best-known for his collaborations with Captain Beefheart and later Jeff Buckley.

With avant composer/vocalist/bandleader Don Van Vilet (Captain Beefheart), Lucas realized his childhood dream of joining Beefheart’s band, recording the seminal Doc at the Radar Station (1980) and Ice Cream for Crow (1982). Esquire wrote of the song "Evening Bell”: "Gary Lucas apparently grew extra fingers in order to negotiate his way through it." These recordings put Lucas on the musical map as a force to be reckoned with and laid the groundwork for his subsequent career.

In 1989, Lucas formed his band Gods and Monsters in a nod to the film Bride of Frankenstein. In 1991, legendary music producer Hal Willner presented a Tim Buckley tribute concert at St. Anne’s Church in Brooklyn featuring the mesmerizing New York debut of Tim's son, Jeff Buckley. Lucas was among the New York music cognoscenti who helped discover Jeff Buckley and launch his career.

Jeff Buckley and Gary Lucas, Coney Island, 1992 (Photo by Chris Buck)

Buckley stayed in New York and joined Gods and Monsters. Lucas composed solo guitar instrumentals for "Rise Up to Be" and "And You Will," which later became the musical templates for "Grace" and "Mojo Pin." Lucas co-wrote these two lead-off tracks with Buckley for his widely popular, critically acclaimed, and heralded album, Grace.

Lucas’s collaborations have included Reed, Leonard Bernstein, John Cale, Patti Smith, Chris Cornell, Bryan Ferry, Nona Hendryx, Los Van Van, Bob Weir, Nick Cave, Thurston Moore, Lukas Ligeti, Martha Wainwright, and many others. Lucas has been dubbed "The Thinking Man's Guitar Hero" (The New Yorker), "The world's most popular avant-rock guitarist" (The Independent), "One of the 100 Greatest Living Guitarists" (Classic Rock), "Legendary leftfield guitarist" (The Guardian), "Guitarist of 1000 Ideas" (The New York Times), "a true axe God" (Melody Maker), and "One of the five best guitarists in the world" (by the national Czech newspaper Lidove Noviny). And British world music magazine fRoots recently described Lucas as "without question, the most innovative and challenging guitarist playing today."

Gary Lucas in action in London at the Jeff Buckley Tribute Upstairs at the Ritzy Brixton 9/10/17
photo by Michael Arkk

Noting that he was thrilled to be pairing with the innovative Verso Studios, Lucas said, “Dracula, King of the Undead and the ne plus ultra in vampires as first immortalized by Bram Stoker in 1897, is one of the most enduring legends in all of horror history, with countless spin-offs both filmic and otherwise.

“For my money, though, no cinematic version quite beats the legendary Spanish-language Dracula, filmed in 1931 at night at Universal Studios in Hollywood on the same sets as Bela Lugosi’s Dracula, which was being filmed during the day—but with a different, all-Latin cast, and an English director. The camera moves more fluidly, the editing rhythms are faster, and the costumes are wilder. 'La Sangre es la Vida, Signor Renfield!'”

This marks the second film accompanied by live score to be featured at Verso Studios at The Westport Library this year, with Psychedelic Cinema’s South: Sir Ernest Shackleton and the Endurance Expedition debuting to a packed and excited audience.

For the full lineup and more information on StoryFest 2023, visit the StoryFest website.

L to R: The book cover for To Anyone Who Ever Asks, and a picture of the author, Howard Fishman

We are in the midst of a golden age of mid-century popular music, with expanded deluxe editions, lost albums, compilations, rediscovery, and reexamination. Enter Connie Converse.

Converse is redefining the narrative of singer-songwriter history, bridging the gap between traditional Americana (country, blues, folk, jazz, and gospel), the Great American Songbook, classical art song, and the singer-songwriter movement spurred on by Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell—but Converse was doing it a decade before those figures arrived.

This revelatory subject is the focus of the inaugural Verso Book Club event, which welcomes author Howard Fishman, writer of the widely shared New York Times feature Before Dylan, There Was Connie Converse. Then She Vanished., and the critically acclaimed book, To Anyone Who Ever Asks: The Life, Music, and Mystery of Connie Converse.

The event is free and will take place at The Westport Library on Thursday, October 5, 7-9 pm, in Brooks Place (on the Library's main level). Registration is required.

Copies of To Anyone Who Ever Asks can be purchased through registration and at the event, where Fishman will be signing copies. The book is also available in The Westport Library catalog.

"Connie Converse was the ultimate cross-disciplinary innovator," said Fishman, "so I'm thrilled to be able to present a talk about her at a forward-thinking venue like The Westport Library/Verso Studios."

“With Verso Studios' vision to marry literature, music, and media, we welcome this inaugural Verso Book Club event as a forum for tri-state area writers and fans to see how writing and investigative journalism elevates and defines art," Westport Library Executive Director Bill Harmer said.

In the wave of reappraisal in Converse’s work, there are now more than 10 million streams and 80,000 monthly listeners of Converse’s songs on Spotify. Artists ranging from Jeff Tweedy (Wilco) and Big Thief to opera’s rising star Julia Bullock have covered her work.

To Anyone Who Ever Asks press release reads, “Fishman recounts what can be known about Converse’s life while offering readers insight into her work and why it was so far ahead of her time. The bizarre legend about Connie Converse that had become the prevailing narrative among those who had also discovered her music was that in 1974, at the age of fifty, she simply drove off one day and was never heard from again. Could this have been true? A dozen years of research, travel to the places she lived, immersion into the voluminous effects she left behind, and hundreds of interviews later (including many with her friends and family members), Fishman gives readers a compelling book.”

The Verso Book Club is a reading group engaging in discourse and discussion on new and classic books focusing on contemporary popular music, media, and culture, filmmaking, and artistic scenes. The Verso Book Club provides a forum for author talks on influence, craft, process, and approach. Author talks are recorded, archived, and promoted via the state-of-the-art Verso Studios.

Fishman is a frequent contributor to The New Yorker, where he has published essays on music, film, theater, literature, travel, and culture. His essays have also appeared in Vanity Fair, The Washington Post, Artforum, San Francisco Chronicle, Mojo, The Village Voice, Jazziz, and Salmagundi. His play, A Star Has Burnt My Eye, was a New York Times “Critics Pick.”

As a performing songwriter and bandleader, Fishman has toured internationally as a headlining artist for more than two decades. He has released 11 albums to date, and is the producer of the album, Connie's Piano Songs: The Art Songs of Elizabeth "Connie" Converse.

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