On the twilight of a lovely 29th of August, I headed into York’s Crescent to catch Jeffrey Lewis perform with his band Los Bolts. Presented by local bigname promoters Please Please You, the night kicked off with two support acts; first Me & My Bro, whose hilarious and ruggedly simple songs like “Cactus Boy” and “Got To Finish This Paperwork by Tuesday” got laughs from everyone in the crowd, and then Meabh McDonnell, who had a nervous but likable charm in her similarly amusing tunes like “Who Stole My £30 From Morrisons?”.
The main event was somewhat delayed by some last minute wiring and technical configuration. I’m not smart enough to know what was going on, but luckily one of the band had the knowhow to fix it. It seemed like a reflection of Jeffrey and the band themselves; rough and haphazard, yet experienced. Jeffrey also set up a projector onto a small white screen behind the drummer, initially showing scenes from a comic strip – which I assume were of Jeffrey’s creation, given that he also doubles as a comic book artist/writer in his home in New York.
Donning a guitar that appeared to have been in a sticker factory accident as the projection changed to something straight out of a Windows Media Player visualizer, Jeffrey & Los Bolts opened with the calm and dreamy ‘Thunderstorm’ from their latest album Manhattan.
The album itself is unpredictable, contemplative and soothing numbers colliding into songs that sound like they’ve crawled out of a coarse, moshing NYC club. This evening was no different. There were points where I’d be quite sleepily listening to the record’s calmly and quietly emanating sounds, and then very suddenly ripped out of that daze into a head-bopping, distortion-crammed jam. Their ability to do both so well is a clear indicator as to the talent of Jeffrey and Los Bolts.
However, a clearer display of his creative prowess was shown later on, as Jeffrey projected a slideshow comic book onto the screen whilst musically weaving its tale; a team of superheroes, including a pirate, film noir detective and scary brain, defeating an evil robot and giant groundhog (at least definitely a rodent of some kind). It was wonderfully charming, humorous, and filled with an almost child-like whimsy. This storytime-esque interval was repeated near the end of the show, when we were treated to a summary of the origins of Cuba and the emergence of communism within it, backed again with original comic illustrations.
The whole evening was filled with a repertoire of wit and fast paced, intricate lyricism. Jeffrey’s songs are often chock-full of introspection and observation about occurrences in his own life, which he translates and expresses in a very understandable way. The song ‘Support Tour’, for example, is about the hardships of a musician trying to make a living, and whilst I’ve never personally experienced those problems, I understood right there and then what it must be like to be on a support tour with crummy pay.
After an encore of ‘Don’t Be Upset’, I left York thoroughly entertained by a brilliant performance, educated in Cuban communism, and elated at being allowed into the quirky and wonderful world of Jeffrey Lewis & Los Bolts.By Dariush Bahri