Wassup Rockers

Jeffrey Lewis @ Sound Fix, 6/27

I wrote this post last week after seeing Jeffrey Lewis:

The last time I went to a Sound Fix in-store was for Art Brut (what have they been up to??), and I couldn’t even get into the bar area where they do the shows cos I got there too late. This past Friday I went to see Jeffrey Lewis for the first time ever, only to find out that it was a benefit show for which I had no money, and even worse, there were four other acts playing before Jeffrey got on stage. I guess it evened out with the fact that there were no openers for the Babasónicos, but still, it was exhausting even if the acts were pretty okay.

First one up was Kate Ferencz. I feel really mean saying this because she seemed kinda nervous, but her music was awful. Just brutal sitting through it (I was just so tired I couldn’t stand through much of it). I understood that she had this whole lo-fi, heart-on-her-sleeve esthetic but as someone on the listening end, I didn’t find it enjoyable. I mean, I like Beat Happening and other such acts as much as the next person, but I seriously questioned her ability to play and sing at the same time. Her singing on top of that was very child-like in a grating sort of way. I don’t think she understands the concept of a melody and interesting song structures. To me, her songs felt like they meandered too much without anchors such as choruses and the like, and I don’t even know if she understood the capabilities of her voice so that she could write songs that would play up her strengths.

Wow, I just re-read that last paragraph and I sound like the biggest cunt in the world. Well, in her defense, she had a lot of her friends come to the set and they seemed to enjoy it a lot.

The next act was Archipelago, which included a guitarist/vocalist, a drummer, a flutist, a violinist, and a xylophonist. I got the sense, however, that the group was led by the guitarist/vocalist dude. Like they weren’t really interacting much and they all looked very focused on their parts as if they were still learning the songs. It was your reg’lar, pretty indie pop rock act, but I thought they had a good go live and they had some interesting arrangements. And even if it seemed like they didn’t all know the songs by heart, they were fairly polished and professional live. They were probably my favorite out of the four lesser-known acts.

I wasn’t the only one who approved: in the middle of the set, this little girl (or boy??), probably like a year or at most 18 months old, just waddled her way up the stage. The band members had a good sense of humor about it. The little girl was particularly taken by the drums, as I was taken by the really handsome drummer guy. Said handsome drummer guy offered the little girl one of his sticks and she took it and got to bang on it a bit. He was like, “That’s it, I’m done,” obviously upstaged by the cute little girl. It was adorable. Fortunately for him, he was able to keep his job since the dad of the little girl quickly scooped her back and away from the stage. The rest of the set went wonderfully.

Well, apparently The Best Thing Ever, the group who went on after Archipelago, were playing their second-to-last show ever. They were engaging, even though I wasn’t in the mood for being engaged. By this point I was feeling pretty worn down. The crowd was chatty but the band members were not deterred and pulled out all their best tricks. The sing-a-longs were a success, which fascinated me, and in fact the singer dude said something really smart: “The secret to playing shows is making the people think they know the songs already.” I can’t remember how their music went, mostly because each song was different. This one guy was really cool cos he played the trumpet, and I really liked that the cellist girl really knew how to rock it on her instrument. I guess they were on the punkier side of things.

The last act before Jeffrey went on was Laura Stevenson. She’s basically a singer-songwriter, which sucked for her because most people were not down for her shit. She was aware of this, too, so she kept her set short and sweet. I felt bad for her. The songs were well-written if nothing too memorable. What was memorable, and unfortunately so, was her vocal delivery. When she spoke she had a natural voice, but when she sang she would force it to sound more child-like in her throat instead of singing from her gut. It was pretty annoying and, in my opinion, took away from the quality of the songs.

After so many years, I finally saw Jeffrey Lewis live. I felt pretty goofy standing right in front of him wearing my Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights t-shirt. The story of how I acquired the aforementioned Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights t-shirt is long and complicated and so it will have to be told on another post.

The set was fucking good. After all, he has toured extensively, usually as an opener for a crappier act, who knows why. Unfortunately, he didn’t bring his comics or a projector to illustrate his songs, but it was all good. Another weird thing was that he’d played a lot of shows recently, so he wanted to play songs he hadn’t played in any of the shows. So really, there was no chance at all for me to hear him do his song on The Fall. People kept shouting for him to do his Will Oldham song, but we got some great shit, such as “Don’t Be Upset” and even better, “Back When I Was 4,” which was the very first song of his I ever heard!

But let it be known I wasn’t entirely drunk on some sort of nostalgia. I enjoyed the brief-as-hell set for what it was: a dude with little vocal range with his guitar telling these intricate stories through song while accompanied by a really enthusiastic friend. I’m sorry, I totally don’t remember what his friend’s name was, but it seemed like he was just playing the accompaniment parts by ear and I thought that was way cool. Jeff’s delivery, as expected, was deadpan and monotone which really tickled my funny bone. Can’t wait to see him again.


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