Thursday, September 03, 2009

Live Music Review: Jeffrey Lewis at Bodega Social, Nottingham Wednesday 2 September 2009

It was incredibly pleasing to see a healthily substantial crowd attending the latest Jeffrey Lewis gig. It's out of term-time so it possibly wasn't as crowded as it could have been (it wasn't the sardine experience that was Camera Obscura at the gig in 2006) but was all the better for that. Heck, some people even danced!

Anyway: we were a little later than usual arriving so didn't catch the entire set of The Fishermen Three, and completely missed the first support (was there a first support? I think I grasped he was from Derby. Sorry for missing you). Still, we were so swept up with hearing The Fishermen Three, with Jack Lewis (yes, brother of Jeffrey and equally wonderful) that we felt very well treated in terms of a support act. As you will know from other reviews here, support acts can be variable. Some, like Broken Records supporting Twilight Sad can blow the main act away somewhat; others are The Displacements (*spit*).

It was also nice to see some familiar faces in the audience: there was a good Nottingham Uni American Studies contingent which was very reassuring as I do like to see young people with good taste in music. I should have known I could trust them.

Anyone who has seen Jeffrey Lewis perform live will know that his shows are a mix of songs, chat and multi-media activity. In this case we got a couple of 'films' (his illustrations with commentary for narratives and/or history): one was as yet incomplete on the early years of European settlers in the USA, focusing on the Mayflower, and one (clearly well thumbed) noir tale of disguises and deception. Both utterly brilliant. Both hugely difficult to convey in writing (I hope to add Neil's pictures to help, but check out Lewis's site for further visuals

Quirky, funny, sincere, heart-rending: listening to Lewis is a wonderful and unique experience. It seems hard to believe that a folk (anti-folk?) artiste could produce a musical set where one of the highlights is a rap about being a mass murderer of mosquitos in Maine, but with Lewis, anything is possible!

One final note: you really REALLY have to hand it to an act whose merchandise stall not only has CDs and T-shirts but gives space to promote the IWW (Industrial Workers of the World, aka the Wobblies). A local IWW branch has been set up in Notts. Very pleasing. It also provided a nice reminder that Lewis contributed artwork to the graphic comix book history of the Wobblies that I had picked up in New Zealand a few years ago! This seems to be pretty rare in the UK now and not exactly easily accessible in the US, which is a real shame. It's a great text about the great Union.

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