‘The Coolest Library’: VersoFest 2023 Inspires, Entertains Over Four Unforgettable Days

Thu, Apr 6, 2023
EJ Crawford

Near the end of their set during the VersoFest 2023 kickoff concert, Sunflower Bean lead singer and bassist Julia Cumming posed a rhetorical question to the audience: “Did you know this isn’t the first time we’ve played in a library? But it wasn’t as cool as this library. This is the COOLEST library!”

For four days, The Westport Library was indeed the coolest library, playing host to its annual VersoFest — a celebration of music, media, and creativity featuring concerts, panel discussions, workshops, and so much more.

The festival truly had something for everyone, from the rollicking keynote conversation between renowned producer Steve Lillywhite and Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Famer Chris Frantz to the insightful Malloy Lecture in the Arts with artist and Psychedelic Furs frontman Richard Butler to the emotional oral history interview with the legendary Miriam Linna and Beehive Queen Christine Ohlman.

And that is just a portion of all that was showcased at VersoFest 2023. The concerts with Sunflower Bean (Thursday), with DJ HYSTERICA opening, and the Smithereens featuring Marshall Crenshaw (Friday), with Amilia K Spicer opening and Linna serving as DJ, drew more than 750 people to the Library’s packed Trefz Forum. Hundreds more assembled over the weekend for panels ranging from rock fashion and rock photography to vinyl record collecting, podcasting and radio, and the business of music, culminating Sunday afternoon with a celebration of the 50th anniversary of hip hop in Connecticut that regularly brought the capacity crowd to its feet.

VersoFest also carved out space for a record fair featuring vendors from across the tri-state area as well as intimate workshop sessions on songwriting, screenwriting, photography, and TV and media production. There was also a hands-on TeachRock session utilizing a 1:4 replica of the Grateful Dead’s “Wall of Sound” PA system that entertained throughout the weekend with a steady diet of the Dead’s best.

In addition to the Wall of Sound, VersoFest’s other installation was a museum of Alice Cooper Group artifacts courtesy Alice Cooper bassist Dennis Dunaway, who closed out the festival with a showing of Live from the AstroTurf, the Alice Cooper Group reunion documentary.

In the Q&A following the documentary, Dunaway echoed Cumming’s words from three days’ prior, pointing to the Library’s forum, lit up for the evening show with a kaleidoscope of colored lights and decorated with Alice Cooper fans young and old, and said, “You call this a library, but this is WAY more than a library.”

Keynote Conversation: Steve Lillywhite with Chris Frantz
Malloy Lecture in the Arts: Richard Butler
Legends, Beats, and Grooves
Music Oral History: Miriam Linna with Christine Ohlman
Vinyl Record Panel Brunch
Rock Photography Panel
Rock Fashion Panel
Business of Music Panel
Live from the Astroturf Q&A

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Photos: Chad Anderson of Chad Anderson Photography & Brendan Toller

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