The Scarlet & Black

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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Jeffrey Lewis, the anti-folkman

Anti-folk musician/comic book artist, Jeffrey Lewis, is not for everyone, and that’s probably the reason he’ll attract a large crowd at Gardner this Friday. “It’s not a dance show,” said Dane Haiken ’11, who has been trying to get Lewis to play Grinnell since last year. “It’s more of a sit-and-think show.”
Influenced by 60s psychedelic and garage rock, as well as his anxiety-inducing Lower East Side surroundings, Lewis sounds like the result of a Juno soundtrack orgy, with a little more grit—still it is difficult to fit Lewis neatly in the indie rock box. In addition to proudly wearing his “anti-folk” tag, Lewis separates himself from his ‘hip’ contemporaries by showcasing his comic book art during shows.
“The most interesting thing about the show,” Haiken said, “is that [Lewis] will hold up his comics and sing an a capella song which corresponds to the illustrations and tells a story or explains an historical event. For example, he has one about the history of Communism.”
Lewis’ most famous song, “Williamsburg Will Oldham Horror,” details his chance subway encounter with a man who may, or may not, be indie-rock legend Bonnie “Prince” Billy, aka Will Oldham. As the train leaves the Lower East Side and heads for Hipster Central in Brooklyn, Lewis unloads his pent up anxieties and insecurities about life as a frivolous, fledgling rock star onto the man who he’s pretty sure is Oldham in hopes of some empathy and sage-like wisdom. Instead, Lewis is mugged and raped by the man, who leaves him with nothing besides an oddly cathartic message: “All artists are pussies.” Like I said earlier, the show probably is not for everyone.
Despite its somewhat off-putting content, “Williamsburg Will Oldham Horror,” illustrates Lewis’ supreme talent as both a finger picking guitarist and a culturally literate lyricist. The song is at once eloquent and catchy, witty and true. Luckily, it is also representative of his larger body of work, proving Lewis capable of producing stuff that will resonate far beyond the zip up hoodie and Converse crowd—even if they are the only ones who are listening so far.
“He makes sense to whoever is listening,” Haiken said.
Jeffery Lewis will be appearing solo in Gardner this Friday Jan. 29 at 9 p.m.

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