Every time Jeffrey Lewis writes another great song, ten struggling poets bury their heads and sob long into blank pages. Tonight he rolls in with Los Bolts – it’s a simple set up with Jeff on vocals and guitar, Mem on bass and Brent Cole from Dufus on drums. Announcing they’d never played to such a big crowd in the Adelphi – it sure is rammed in here and hot – the three musicians each take out a harmonica to do a James Brown intro, that segues into the first song…
I’ve been going to see Jeffrey Lewis at the Adelphi Club in Hull since the early 2000s. Sometimes he brings a new band with him hand-picked from the rich and varied anti-folk scene in New York City. So you get Jeffrey Lewis and the Junkyard; or the Jrams; Peter Stampfel and Jeffrey Lewis: or maybe with brother Jack Lewis.
Rules to follow at a Jeff Lewis show… word to the wise don’t go Googling ‘Jeff Lewis‘ you’ll get some slick looking guy in a sharp suit who flips property: whatever that is.
Rule One: There will be no loud talking during the songs
Rule Two: There will be no waving your mobile about to film the short movies.
Anti-folk grew from a stand against the trad folk of the sixties. In poetry cafes and music clubs of Greenwich Village beatniks, bohos, artists and activists banded together and wrote songs laced with satire. Collectively they pointed fun at the established order and in their own way, tried to change the world.
I don’t know about changing the world, but the first time you hear that anti-folk sound, it can sure your change your life. Whether that’s listening to the Godfather Lach, the engine Hamel, Seth the singer or, as Jarvis Cocker described him just recently, ‘Jeffrey Lewis: best lyricist working in the U.S. today‘.
I just love that spoken delivery, sharp and witty, creating a million pictures in your head, saying those things that we all think but we can’t quite put in to words.
Song subjects tonight range from Manhattan loft lovers, epic song with a switch around on vocals between Mem and Jeff; long bus rides across state lines and saying no to LSD. This is a response to the times when every fan has said,’ I love you man…lets go do some acid,’ after misreading the title of the first album, ‘Last Time I did Acid I went insane‘ as a positive thing. Oh and there’s a spoken word masterpiece about killing mosquitos, with a killer rhythm section played out over the mic.
A word about Mem, originally from Oregon now NY, been on tour as Los Bolts for six months; oozes cool; great vocal tone and delivery: Mem’s looking forward to waking up to an upright bass under the tree this year.
Brent Cole (drummer for The Moldy Peaches) a principal player in the NY scene for many years see: Wooden Ghost, Berth Control, Candy Boys… as easy and laid back as when I last saw him five/six years ago. He keeps it all together from the back, time to time adding backing vocals … I gotta confess my eyes were on Jeff for much of the show.
On to the short movies. Some of Jeff’s songs have satirical cartoon strips attached to them, I don’t know whether the comics inspire the songs or the other way around, but Jeff takes out the battered copy of the Vietnam one and gives us all a timely lesson in world politics and dubious U.S. foreign policy.
It’s a double bill, on the reverse is a telling rags to riches tale, about a certain comic book illustrator – a hero of Jeff’s – who lives in Northampton U.K. who goes by the name of Alan Moore.
The World According to Jeffrey Lewis, should be taught in every school… it might not make bundles of money, but it would sure make it a richer place to live in.
New album ‘Manhattan‘ is out now on Rough Trade