Folky troubadour Jeffrey Lewis is renowned for doing things a little differently. Not content with unleashing his music and merchandise on the world, he also likes to exploit his creative side with a regular series of comic books and beautifully intricate, hand-drawn album covers.
In keeping with this alternative, arty approach, today’s gig is no normal event either, taking place on a sleepy Sunday afternoon in Brixton, it is kicked off by Lewis’ legendary uncle Professor Louie – a spindly, craggy faced chap who treats a room packed to the rafters with floppy haired indie kids and hippy types to his political rhythmic spoken word. Delivered captivatingly in a warm, gruff voice, the headliner accompanies his relative, tinkering on drums and plucking at an acoustic guitar as accompaniment to witty and incisive monologues on everything from cockroaches to basketball star Shaq O’Neal and Iraq.
And the social commentary doesn’t stop there, as Lewis saunters onto the stage backed by a tight three-piece band to showcase tracks from superb recently released fourth effort 12 Crass Songs, which finds him breathing new life into material by the cult anarcho-pacifist British punk band. Highlights include a frenzied version of System System with its rockabilly stomp and bellowed vocals, the utterly infectious gritty riff-driven Roxy and melancholy folk offering Punk Is Dead.
However, it’s the renditions of older songs such as Back When I Was 4 which draw the biggest crowd responses, inspiring people to cheer and sing along with every quirky lyric and soaring chorus from start to finish.
This amiable New Yorker is certainly a talented chap, he jokes and banters throughout today’s performance and at one point even holds up a book of cartoons and flicks from page to page while telling an entertaining tale about the history of writing. Where many are unable or unwilling to create work without pretension, Jeffrey Lewis is a veritable breath of fresh air for the artier side of indie. He pushes the boundaries of imagination and entertains with complete ease, self-deprecating delivery and a charming smile on his face. Long may it continue.