Thirty Years and Going Strong: Iconic Rockers the Spin Doctors to Headline Friday Night Concert at VersoFest 2024

Thu, Feb 8, 2024
Brendan Toller

"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.

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