Wainright to perform at Emens Auditorium Saturday

Just a year after a concert performance at Butler University in Indianapolis, Canadian musician Rufus Wainwright said he is excited to return to Hoosier country. Saturday's 8 p.m. concert at Emens Auditorium is a benefit to restore film icon James Dean's Fairmount High School.

A self-proclaimed, long-time Dean fan, Wainwright made an unplanned visit to the James Dean Gallery in Fairmount, Ind., last year, sparking his interest in the cause. He befriended the owner of the museum, David Loehr, and toured the movie star's hometown.

"The town seemed like it was Eden, a mythical place with a record store that still had 45's (records) attached to fish wire, one bar and a five-and-dime store," Wainwright said. "It was just kind of amazing that it hadn't really changed. I had a great experience there.

"Then I heard they were going to tear down his high school, which is an amazing, old, dilapidated building. At first, I wanted to buy it and turn it into some weird nightclub. It was too expensive, but I decided to help save it anyway. I feel like it's important to save a piece of American history."

"Whereas most people would think that the West Coast or Florida is kind of exotic, I always thought the Midwest really exotic, just because it's so different from where I grew up," Wainwright said. "I find it really fascinating in a lot ways, in terms of it being just so American."

The Quebec native, freshly 29, son of celebrated folk singers Loudon Wainwright III and Kate McGarrigle, owns a style unmatched by today's other rising musicians. His unique lyrical poise and poetic intellect couple a rich, flavorful tone that promises to take aback anyone in earshot.

The benefit concert will be a family affair, as mother, Kate, and aunt, Anna, of the McGarrigle Sisters, with sister Martha Wainwright, are Rufus' featured opening act for the first time.

"It's tremendously gracious of them to do this -- they're fierce musicians," he said. "They'll have a set before mine, but we'll do some stuff together. It'll be a whole hodgepodge, mix-up of stuff, and I'll play a lot of new songs."

Wainwright describes his writing and recording process as prolific.

"I work on about five or six songs at once, and so I might not finish a song for a couple of weeks," he said. "Then I'll sometimes finish seven in a day. They all just come together in a weird way."

A Dream Works Records debut in 1998, his self-titled maiden opus, captivated the musical tastes of a loyal fan base that clung to Wainwright's romantic, operatic wizardry until the unveiling of his sophomore album in 2001. "Poses" is a smooth blend of his recognized "love lost" underpinning with a droll twist of irony and apathy for mainstream society and all its absurdities.

"'Poses' was a transition in terms of my understanding pop music, so flashing up some of my songs for that record was experimental," he said. "I learned a lot from that, but I hope that what I need from pop and what I want from pop is crystallized into a big, well-polished stone to smash the window of the world."

His resume bubbles soundtrack contributions from big-screen hits, including "I Am Sam," "Moulin Rouge" and "Big Daddy." But Wainwright, who took up playing the piano at age six and traveled with his mother and aunt during his childhood, said manufacturing his third album is a last-ditch attempt at scoring a radio hit. Future plans to pursue new avenues in the music industry, such as writing an opera or musical, confirm his lifetime commitment to tasteful music.

"When I get down at the piano or the guitar and close my eyes, at that point it's between me and the notes," he said. "I kind of just space out. I don't know where I go. It's total escapism. I hope the audience or listener can do the same."

"The only way I can offer my music to people is to say that I'm trying to move you in some -- goddamned way. You've been so solid and cold for all these years," Wainwright explained with mounting sarcasm. "Maybe a little sniffle or tear will come to your eye at some point in your life. It's great driving music, too."

Wainwright said he speculates Saturday's vaudeville, not part of a tour, might be a last live performance until after his third record, which he's currently working on, hits stores sometime next year.

"This is sort of a one-off," he said. "So for all those people across the country who want to see me, this is a good time because I'm going to shut myself in the studio for a while.

"I'm really just trying to create some sort of beauty out of this plastic, crumbling world that we have. Today, so much of music is chained to everyone's penis or vagina or name or profanity. I think everyone in the end can be seduced by a fantasy."


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