John Wesley Harding with Black Prairie (Members of The Decemberists)

John Wesley Harding with Black Prairie (Members of The Decemberists)

Thu, January 17, 2013

Doors: 8:00 pm / Show: 9:00 pm


This event is 21 and over

John Wesley Harding
John Wesley Harding
Wesley Stace was born in Hastings, Sussex in 1965, and educated at The King's School, Canterbury, and Jesus College, Cambridge. Under the name, John Wesley Harding, he has released 15 albums, ranging from traditional folk to full on pop music. His most recent pop release WHO WAS CHANGED AND WHO WAS DEAD (2009), recorded with The Minus Five, was a critical smash, garnering considerable airplay: the album is "terrifically catchy" (NEW YORKER), while Harding is "hyper-aware, expertly tweaking the lyricist's game at every turn" (LOS ANGELES TIMES), with "lyrics that dazzle" (WALL STREET JOURNAL). "Typically wry and acerbic" (BILLBOARD), the songs "reveal a greater maturity and lyrical polish..." making it "the most pleasing album Harding has made since his first studio effort, Here Comes the Groom" (ALL MUSIC GUIDE).

John Wesley Harding has been joined onstage by Lou Reed, Iggy Pop, John Prine, Bruce Springsteen (with whom he recorded a duet on his album AWAKE), Joan Baez, Peter Buck, Evan Dando, David Baddiel, Rick Moody, Tanya Donelly, Josh Ritter, Rosanne Cash, Colin Meloy, Scott MacCaughey and Robyn Hitchcock amongst others. He has appeared on Late Night with Conan O'Brien, The Late Show with David Letterman, and The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. His songs have been featured in films (including High Fidelity) and covered by other artists. His most recent record was "Songs of Misfortune", a (mostly) a capella recording by The Love Hall Tryst, featuring the ballads from his first novel, Misfortune. The recently released DVD "A Bloody Show" documents an epic show filmed at Bumbershoot in Seattle, featuring songs from Misfortune, on which JWH is accompanied by a rock band, a string quartet and The Love Hall Tryst, and readings from the novel.

His series of "Cabinet of Wonders" variety shows in Spring 2009 in New York City at Le Poisson Rouge included appearances by Rosanne Cash, Graham Parker, Josh Ritter, Rick Moody, Colson Whitehead and Jonathan Ames. It's "a brilliant evening of laid-back fun" (VILLAGE VOICE) and "one of the most whip-smart variety shows on the market" (PORTLAND TRIBUNE). A further series in the fall of 2009 at the same venue will feature, among others: A.C.Newman, Rhett Miller, Steven Page, Eugene Mirman, David Gates, John Roderick, Jon Auer, Tanya Donelly, Patrick McGrath, Todd Barry, Steve Almond and Stephen Elliott. The shows will also feature his NYC band, The English UK.

His first novel, MISFORTUNE, under his real name Wesley Stace, was published to great acclaim in 2004 by Little, Brown (USA) and Jonathan Cape (UK) - translations followed in Italy, France (where it has become a bestseller), Holland, Taiwan, Japan, Spain and Israel. It was nominated for The Guardian First Book Award, The Commonwealth Writers' Prize, The James Tiptree, Jr. Award, listed as one of the books of the year in The Washington Post and The Boston Phoenix, and was one of Amazon's Top Ten Novels of the Year. MISFORTUNE has been optioned, and the script has been finished.

His second novel, BY GEORGE, was published in August 2007; it was one of the New York Public Library's Books To Remember of 2007, and Booklist Editor's Choice for books of the year. He has recently completed his third , CHARLES JESSOLD, CONSIDERED AS A MURDERER (to be published by Jonathan Cape in the UK in Sept 2010). Stace is currently artist-in-residence at Fairleigh Dickinson University, NJ, where he curates the Words & Music Festival. He reviews for the Times Literary Supplement.

He has lived in America since 1991, and resides in Fort Greene, Brooklyn with his wife Abbey, daughter Tilda and son Wyn.
Black Prairie
Black Prairie
On Black Prairie’s debut, Feast of the Hunters’ Moon, listeners caught an introduction
to the broad musical inclinations of Decemberists members Chris Funk, Nate Query
and Jenny Conlee and fellow Portland musicians Annalisa Tornfelt and Jon Neufeld,
classic instrumental string-band tones mixing with the vibrant bounce of Romani
music and bursts of Tornfelt vocal-led pop.

The new A Tear in the Eye is a Wound in the Heart — out September 18 via Sugar Hill
Records — goes far deeper than an introduction, offering a more intimate, layered
look into the five bandmates’ predilections and abilities, and a snapshot of a group
that’s grown from a side project into a focused, full-fledged band.

Funk and Query initially hatched the idea for Black Prairie as a way to explore
instrumental string band music during Decemberists downtime, and those
beginnings aren’t absent on A Tear in the Eye. But the growth from idea into five-
part whole is immediately present, as Tornfelt’s sweetly harmonied pop takes more
of the foreground, and the band digs deeper into the traditions studied on their

The overriding focus in writing A Tear in the Eye, Neufeld says, was simply to follow
each member’s creative impulses, in whatever stylistic form they took.

“I don't feel like there's any boundaries in this band at all,” he says. “That feeling of
freedom, of, ‘Yeah, let's do that, let's do this.’ It's pretty free-flowing in that way.”

The album offers something of an accidental roadmap pointing toward what and
who inspired many of those impulses, too. A The Band-esque brand of loose-groove,
heart-forward Americana drives “Richard Manuel”; the bandmates trade exultant
bluegrass leads through “For the Love of John Hartford”; and the kind of energetic
gallop that permeates the music of famed Romani group Taraf de Haïdouks stomps
through Black Prairie’s “Taraf.” Other A Tear in the Eye inspirations come through a
little more veiled — like the impulse that sparked album track “34 Wishes,” which
Query says started under the working title “Metal Song.”

“We were trying to make, ‘What would a heavy metal song sound like on these
instruments?’” he says, laughing, of the song’s early collaborative genesis alongside
Neufeld. “He came to my house and we literally opened my computer, listened
to Mastodon and stole riffs from them, put them through the lens of Dobro and
acoustic guitar.”

That kind of marked eclecticism makes for an album of quick, wide twists and
turns, and to Funk, also makes A Tear in the Eye a wholly honest picture of who the
members of Black Prairie are.

“I think it's all of our influences and all of us,” Funk says. “In this day and age people
say, ‘It's a singles market, people aren't listening to albums as much anymore and
they're listened to things on shuffle.’ To me, this is like a great shuffle. It’s our iPods
on shuffle, for sure.”

And while you can’t necessarily draw a definitive line between A Tear in the Eye
tracks and a certain member’s music collection, accordion player/singer Conlee
recognizes how individual sonic strengths and loves build up the whole of Black

“I think each of us has their tendencies — maybe I like to do the music that has
more of an accordion style, like trying to do a French song,” she says. “I think Jon
tends to have a little more of a bluegrass edge. Funk is probably the most eclectic of
everybody. But we all have a lot of variation in what we do and like.”

One inclination all five members share: a desire and willingness to produce in-
the-moment, fully alive music, free of the hyper-polishing and retouching that can
blunt a recording’s humanity. The band tracked A Tear in the Eye with Hunters’
Moon producer Tucker Martine (The Decemberists, Death Cab for Cutie), start to
finish, over the course of 10 days, eschewing hemming and hawing for energy and

“We just moved quick,” Funk says, “and it’s really refreshing about this band, to let
the real personalities come through and not worry about Auto-Tuning and hyper-
punching notes, and, ‘Is that completely in tune?’ It's rough. It sounds like who we
are as real musicians.”

As musicians, the members of Black Prairie have been keeping plenty busy beyond
working on A Tear in the Eye and with their other bands, too. In early 2012, the band
paired with the Oregon Children’s Theatre, composing music for the play The Storm
in the Barn. For 2012’s Record Store Day in April, they issued a limited-edition 7-
inch record featuring collaborations with The Shins’ James Mercer and Sallie Ford of
Sallie Ford and The Sound Outside.

The latter project launched Black Prairie’s ongoing Singers EP series, which will
feature songwriting team-ups with an array of friendly voices, with new releases
coming in natural bursts, as Black Prairie and their co-conspirators’ schedules allow.
(Releases with Martha Scanlan and Langhorne Slim are already in the works.)

Those free-flowing collaborations just extend the approach the members take with
Black Prairie.

“One of the things I appreciate so much about this group is how much it's truly
collaborative,” Query says. “It's really easy, because everybody trusts each other
and is excited about each others' skills and unique superpowers. It's always really
exciting — you never know what’s going to happen.”
Venue Information:
MilkBoy Philly
1100 Chestnut Street
Philadelphia, PA, 19107