When you go to a Jeffrey Lewis show you’re not really expecting the usual. Homemade comic books, history lessons and projections are just some of the things that might be on offer to complement his witty homespun philosophising on life.
Tonight at the Lexington it’s 100 degrees and sweat is dripping from the ceiling. Which makes Esperi - known to his family as Chris Lee-Marr - the support act, seem a little out of place with his tales of Scottish rain and snow. But he is mesmerising. Poignant, evocative and lilting on this boiling day the sound of the cold, stark Scottish winter is refreshing. He only plays 4 songs but that he packs a lot into them. Cats and Dogs + Hearts is the stand out. A 15-minute epic in 4 parts it combines acoustic strums, experimental beats, sampled finger clicks, looped vocals and a multiplicity of instruments including a xylophone to create a stirring lament.
Then the anti-folk hero takes to the stage with the Junkyard. The only thing that’s changed since the last time I saw him is that he now has more hair on his face than on top of his head (though as he sang "going bald is the most manly thing I’m ever gonna do").
The brothers are in good form sharing ideas about why iTunes Genius is not that smart and how Jeff has come up with the ‘million dollar idea’ of guitar strings that don’t go out of tune. This is a no setlist night, so as Jack says it’s ‘a fly by the seat of our pants’ gig. It means the crowd are treated to some classics, a gangster rap about killing mosquitoes and two of Jeff’s hand drawn illustrations. It starts with scrappy, good time rock’n’roll fun as Jack sings the rocky Shadow Party but the crowd are too hot to move.
The welcome introduction of Franic from Wave Pictures and his mandolin lets the crowd get their breath back. ‘When You’re By Yourself’, ‘To Be Objectified’ ‘ are shining examples of Lewis’ meditative, arms aloft anti folk anthems while ‘Cult Boyfriend’ and ‘Bugs and Flowers’ show his witty introspection and his way with a knowing, self deprecating line: “words like voracious just sound like nonsense after you say them about five times”.
The fact that he stands alone on stage to perform ‘Mosquito Mass Murderer’, his gangster rap song, along with treating the overheated crowd to his hand drawn illustrations of the legend of Pocahontas story shows what a unique performer he is.
As the gig seems to have come to a close he reaches for his bag of illustrations one last time and performs an animated interpretation Jeff Buckley's 'Mojo Pin', it’s hilarious and poignant. As he closes the book and crowd flood out of the sauna I’m pretty sure that I’ve sweated out at least two of my internal organs. At least it was worth it.