Musicians Paul Belbusti (a.k.a. Mercy Choir) and Lys Guillorn have split a lot of bills together. They even did an EP in 2013 called Trouble, in which Belbusti wrote the music and Guillorn wrote the words for the first song; then, for the second song, they switched roles. So in November, when Belbusti asked Guillorn if she wanted to collaborate in putting together a month-long Friday-night residency at Never Ending Books on State Street — a “variety show,” according to Belbusti — she agreed.
The result is the Wobbling Roof Revue, which features 28 acts performing 20-minute sets each across four Fridays in March, in a lineup that ranges from musicians and storytellers to a tarot reader, a comedian, and a trivia meister.
The idea emerged from Wobbling Roof, a multimedia webzine that Belbusti started a few years ago. “It would have poets and sound artists and visual artists, and I wanted it to be something you could click through,” Belbusti said. He did a couple issues, online and on paper. “After that I realized that Wobbling Roof can be any kind of curated conglomeration of artists that I enjoy,” he said. “And it doesn’t have to be a zine anymore. It can be something that I organize, a group of artists that I admire.”
He and Guillorn quickly moved to the idea of a residency, but one that involved inviting “tons of people,” Belbusti said, to join them in a kind of variety show.
“If I had my way, there would be magicians and jugglers,” Belbusti said. “I visualize me in a tux, with a dog jumping through a hoop. It’s a direct descendant of that.”
Guillorn laughed at that image. “Just maneuvering our gear in and out of the space will be like jumping through hoops,” she said.
She meant the intimate stage at Never Ending Books, where 30 people can make the room feel packed. The stage, built into the northern half of the storefront and dressed with a rich red curtain, frequently hosts the Uncertainty Music Series and other bills, and has become known as a place where performers can take risks.
“Part of the letter we sent out to folks expressed our desire to go out on a limb,” Guillorn said. “I’m going to try to do the same thing myself. I’ll be performing several songs I’ve never done live before.”
Belbusti and Guillorn also took pains to keep the bills eclectic. Mercy Choir, Guillorn, Laundry Day, and Goodnight Blue Moon will appear alongside George Hakkila, Chris Cavaliere, Telegram Scam, Oberon Rose, Brian Robinson of the Tet Offensive, and Ken Cormier.
In the sheer volume of performers, the Wobbling Roof Revue is also joining the Elm City Folk Festival — coming up in April for a second year — the Elm City Noise Festival, and a host of other events that have included a large number of acts playing short sets.
“More bands equal more people in the room,” Belbusti said. “And the more the merrier. There’s a lot of like-minded people in New Haven.”
“I think we’ve entered an era resembling the mid-to-late ‘70s,” Guillorn said, referring back to the concept of the variety show. “This is what folks want to do. It’s got a more party atmosphere.” Though also, “it’s like a mixtape in a way,” Guillorn continued. “New combinations and connections are made between artists and the audiences will hear them in a different way. If you only have 20 minutes, you’re going to present your best stuff.”
Belbusti agreed. “There’s old groups and new groups, experimental and folk, comedy and trivia. Even if things don’t go according to plan — which they surely won’t — it’ll still be a great show, and a lot of fun for the evening.”
Wobbling Roof Revue appears at Never Ending Books, 810 State St., on March 4, March 11, March 18, and March 25. The $5 suggested donation per evening goes to the Connecticut Food Bank.