Thursday, April 9, 2009

Wes And Eugene's Cabinet Of Wonders Came To The Independent - Pictures, Review

On Sunday night, Wes And Eugene's Cabinet of Wonders made a San Francisco stop at the Independent, and without a doubt, it was everything that was promised and more. Which is to say, it was a little of everything, and then some. It was a loose, enjoyable, but ultimately artistically sound, show that left you walking away with a real sense of joy in the act of performance. But more than that, it was truly a variety show, and gave us such a wide array of input, that we were left unquestionably wanting more. So what, then, was that content? Or, put differently, what did the Cabinet Of Wonders hold?

For starters: John Wesley Harding and Eugene Mirman. Harding turned up a number of separate times through the night, playing as an acoustic duo, with a full band, and backing other performers. As you might imagine, his tunes were incredibly solid, and his singer-songwriter cred served him incredibly well in the variety-show format. While Harding delivered across the board, we do have to say that the highlight for us was the full band set at the end of the show. It was fantastic to see Harding really rock out, and be able to engage in the full arrangements from the record.

For his part, Mirman unquestionably delivered with his own brand of stand up, and really won over the crowd. His reflections on class reunions, trips to israel, and the crowds at recent shows were all incredibly witty and insightful, not to mention downright hilarious. However, even more compelling was how Mirman acted a foil to the rest of the evening's more serious content. Having a solid dose of comedy interjected amongst some of the more earnest numbers served to actually give the rest of the program more weight and poignance.

Perhaps the highlight of the two's time on stage was a collaboration where they sang a duet (complete with gag backdrop) of Simon and Garfunkle's "Mrs. Robinson". Complete with lyrics sheet and harmonies, Harding and Mirman belted out a raucous version of the tune, which culminated in Mirman playing a behind-the-back solo (on a stylophone?). Needless to say, pure awesomeness.

Mirman and Harding, however, were certainly not the only acts on stage that night. Other highlights included and eerie reading by Stephen Elliot, an accordion version of "When Doves Cry" by Daniel Handler, and some great tunes from Victor Krummenacher and Chris Von Sneidern (whose band also served to back Harding). In short, the show was very much like attending a talent show put on by your friends, if you happened to have immensely talented friends who could put together some serious entertainment at the drop of a hat. And that, dear reader, is the definition of fun.

Wes and Eugene's Cabinet Of Wonders continues this weekend, starting tonight, with dates in Minneapolis, Chicago, and Madison.

Many more pictures at the HAD Archive