For the uninitiated, Jeffrey Lewis is an anti-folk singer-songwriter from New York’s Lower East Side who writes quirky, intelligent and painfully catchy songs delivered in a fast-talking, sotto voce style. His website says his material “mixes 60s acoustic psychedelia like Pearls Before Swine with the experimental art-punk of the Fall and the urban lyricism of Lou Reed, sounding a bit like if Woody Guthrie fronted Sonic Youth.” I’d prefer to describe it as sunny nihilism, but that’s just me trying to be succinct. It’s my new hobby.
He also moonlight’s as a comic-book artist – and a rather gifted one at that – and his songs are often accompanied by ‘hand-made music videos’ delivered via flip-chart. Here’s an example, his pant-wettingly hilarious saga of Mark E. Smith, ‘The Legend of The Fall’:
Anyhow, this was the third time I’d seen him play live. I guess that makes me a fan. The last two occasions were acoustic affairs consisting of Jeffrey Lewis, a flip-chart and a battered looking guitar that seemed to be held together with stickers. This this time around the guitar looked even more battered and bestickered, but he also brought along his band. The flip chart stayed at home, replaced now by some nifty back projection featuring a new batch of home-made music videos. Personally, I missed the flip-chart, but – as Rupert Murdoch once told the print unions – you have to move with the times.
Having been used to his quirky acoustic performances, I wasn’t quite prepared for full audio onslaught of the Jitters. To spare me a wearisome trudge through a music thesaurus, I’ll cut to the chase, resort to cliche and simply say They Rocked.
Here’s a clip of them playing ‘Don’t Let The Record Company Take You Out To Lunch’ at one of my favourite music venues in the world, King Tut’s Wah–Wah Hut in Glasgow:
Supporting Jeffrey Lewis was his uncle, Professor Louie. The Professor, it seems, is a veteran performance poet who hails from that time-honoured political movement the corporate media try so hard to ignore: the Goddamned American Left [and no, kids, I’m not talking about the Democrats]. Here’s a biog from his MySpace page:
“Professor Louie (a.k.a. Victor Lewis) is a spoken-word performer/political rapper who’s been putting out underground albums in New York since 1985. Along with percussionist Eddie “Fast Eddie” Hernandez, Professor Louie has been entertaining and enlightening audiences for decades. Called a genius by Pete Seeger on many occasions, the phenomenon known as Professor Louie grew out of the 1960’s radical theater group The Pageant Players and evolved via guerrilla solo performances in the streets and parks of New York City in the early 80’s. Eschewing the music industry entirely, Professor Louie releases albums on the completely independent FREE BROOKLYN NOW imprint.”
I thought he was fecking awesome, and his material reminded me of the Golden Age of Rap and Hip Hop – when the likes of Chuck D and Public Enemy would talk about more compelling things than conspicuous consumption and finely-toned abs. It gave me something of an insight into the pathos and social conscience that informs so much of his nephew’s work. Here’s what I mean:
All in all, then, a great end to my somewhat meagre contribution to Going Deaf For a Fortnight. Still, three gigs in six days ain’t bad….