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Fanview: Rufus Wainwright

By: Tony Wilson

For those of you who may have somehow missed the news (and the giant, hot pink  advertisement occasionally appearing to your right ==>) tonight is the Rockin’ at the Knox music event, which, depending on your experience and the wide array of talent enlisted, may leave you on the fence regarding whether or not you’ll enjoy the litany of acts.

For me, the biggest question I have is about the headliner. Sure, I’ve heard of Rufus Wainwright. His name is common in conversations regarding talented composers, not to mention the fact that he is the offspring of a couple of renowned songwriters, folk musicians Kate McGarrigle and Loudon Wainwright III. But his music has somehow managed to escape my experiences, whether it is radio play, internet, or even on the live touring circuit. I just don’t have any basis for what to expect. So, as is my custom when I want to know more (or where I should even begin) about a musician or act, I find someone I know and trust as a source. 

Of course, with every source there’s a grain of salt. With my source it’s more like the mine in Retsof.

Meet Bill.

bill rw.jpg

I mean, who wouldn’t trust this guy’s opinion?

Just kidding! In actuality, the man with plan’s name is Bill Calabrese. Bill is a close friend, whose vast knowledge of music has often times helped fulfill my compulsory fascination with all things aural. Bill will surely supply anyone with an elegant and factual take on the artists  which he has been lucky enough to experience.

I know Bill is a Rufus fan, and so I lucked out when I asked him to fill me in on what to expect from Wainwrght this evening. I then parlayed that into the following fan interview (or fanerview or fintervan…well you get the idea). I figured it would be cool to try and get the word out to the people who may be equally curious about Rockin’s 2010 headliner.

So here’s how it went down.

Tony Wilson: This Rufus Wainwright character…somehow I know of him, have heard of him a lot, but his music…I don’t think I’ve ever come across it. How’d you end up being my go-to guy for info on R-dub?

Bill Calabrese: I’m guessing I’m like all the other young lazy music enthusiasts who didn’t know Loudon (Wainwright’s father) at the time, and first heard him on the Shrek soundtrack. I was like, “hey, that’s Buckley’s song…but it’s not Buckley,” referring to musician Jeff Buckley. Turns out that it isn’t Buckley’s song either… it’s Leonard Cohen’s.
TW:  So what other experiences have you had with Rufus Wainwright … i demand you tell me something interesting for the readers.

BC: Well, hmm. I’ve only had the chance to see him once and that was in the summer of ’04 at Niagara Square in downtown Buffalo. It was that tour where he was with Ben Folds and Guster. Funny enough, that show is currently #1 on my top shows list, which, if you know me, you can imagine is pretty monstrous and thorough. It helps that Folds and Guster are my two favorite artists alive…try not to hold it against him. 

Rufus was icing on the cake. A definite highlight was when he came out with Folds and covered Careless Whisper. I’ll never forget his funny little crinkled up napkin that he read the lyrics off of. I’ll also never forget how whenever he would roll into crescendos during his set, the wind would always pick up and make his hair dance around as if he somehow commanded the weather to be eerily choreographed to his music. It was actually pretty scary.
TW: So if he can control the weather do you think we can ask for a fair weathered evening?
BC: I asked him already. He said 50% chance of rain.


Interviewer’s note: At the time of this transcription the weather is actually slated for 0% chance of rain, and a beautiful 80 degree day.  Disregard the bonehead )above.

TW: What’s your favorite RW song slash what song do you hope he plays tomorrow?

BC: Dinner at Eight. Purely to see how he hits the “someWHERE” in the “So put up your fists” verse. One of the best 40 seconds of “chills down your spine” music in Baroque pop history.

TW:  I’ve heard you describe his shows as wide ranging from full orchestral accompaniment to stripped down affairs.  What type of performance do you think he’ll put on at Albright?

BC: Looks like Albright will be his first US show in a few months. I think it’s only him and a piano this tour, so you are looking at an intimate ordeal. He can definitely put on the operatic, theatrical fanfare (see that 5 seconds he’s in The Aviator), but when it’s just him and a piano, you’d think he’s just playing for you. It’s eerily intimate. Especially if he choreographs the weather again.

TW: Don’t you mean when?
BC:  Oh, yeah. Right.
TW: Okay, let’s cut to the chase. If you had to categorize his sound what would you say it was like? Do any other musicians or bands come to mind that you would categorize as similar?
BC: I think he’s actually a pretty good fit to play with The National as he and Berninger (the National’s vocalist, Matt Berninger) both have the sexy baritone thing going on. That duet would probably reduce everyone to tears, so it probably won’t happen, unfortunately.

 The best I could offer though is that Rufus has his own category, as I like to think he was supposed to be born in 1930, but wasn’t.
TW: Okay, well what aspect of his music do you think will be able to engage people who don’t know his music well?

BC: What will probably engage the new folks the most, actually, is his personality and his between song banter and stories. His lyrics are also engaging, but the music takes on an entirely different personality. It really washes over you like a warm wave, pleasantly disengaging you from everything around you. The experience will be wonderfully serene, and I think people will really really enjoy that. I know I will.

TW: Time for some straight shooting, give me your best go at a description of Mr. Wainwright if you were gonna describe him to an audience with no prior knowledge?  Give me a quick description.

BC: Hmm…how about if Droopy the Dog was a sarcastic opera virtuoso unwillingly thrust from 1930 to 1980 as a puppy to grace us with his art. This might be Rufus Wainwright.

Lead photo courtesy of

Tony Wilson is a freelance music journalist. When
asked about his experience he says “I’m just a guy who likes music”.
Follow his musings at or email him at

Written by Buffalo Rising

Buffalo Rising

Sometimes the authors at Buffalo Rising work on collaborative efforts in order to cover various events and stories. These posts can not be attributed to one single author, as it is a combined effort. Often times a formation of a post gets started by one writer and passed along to one or more writers before completion. At times there are author attributions at the end of one of these posts. Other times, “Buffalo Rising” is simply offered up as the creator of the article. In either case, the writing is original to Buffalo Rising.

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