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The Jeffrey Lewis Band / Misty’s Big Adventure

New York anti-folk hero Jeffrey Lewis turns 31 tonight. Although he’s had much critical acclaim, his lyrics at times deal with self-doubts regarding his worth as a musician. Luckily the reception he gets tonight, as he marks the end of another year, is ample confirmation that he’s on the right path.

Also a talented cartoonist, Lewis combines this with several of his songs to awe-inspiring effect. His song ‘`Creeping Brain’ is accompanied by a slideshow which illustrates the unfolding tale, with its B-movie plot about a brain that takes over the world by eating everything in its path. Both a way of bringing his excellent cartoons to life and of adding a whole new, unique dimension to his songs, the technique also works wonders for part four of his ‘`complete history of Communism’` which focuses on the history of China (also with accompanying illustrations). If only they taught history like this at school.

However with ‘`Williamsburg Will Oldham Horror’ his hypnotic tale of a fictional encounter with Bonnie ‘`Prince’ Billy, he proves that he and his band (a key member of which is his brother Jack) can paint just as good pictures with words and music alone: it’s a spiralling stream of consciousness (during which Lewis barely catches his breath) that touches on the aforementioned concerns about artistic talent, integrity and success, and plays on Oldham’s enigmatic persona to comic effect.

Along with tonight’s support act KateGoes, whose eclectic theatrics got a good reaction at the start of the night, fellow brummies Misty’s Big Adventure’s co-headlining set make a nice contrast to the more wordy Lewis. Like a troupe of deranged clowns terrorising a children’s birthday party, they give an exhilarating performance of their ska-pop back catalogue, as well as current single ‘`The Fashion Parade’ which rips into Franz and the Kaisers with unapologetic glee (though sadly, without Noddy Holder’s voiceover). Grandmaster Gareth narrates tales about such matters as radioactive children in a wryly sardonic style, with some of the songs coming across like tragi-comic Jackanory stories for adults. His band mates play keyboards, trumpet and saxophone, jump around and make a lot of glorious noise. However by the end of their set, the continued presence of their devilish mascot Erotic Volvo and his sweaty costume made out of blue gloves seems like an unnecessary aberration.

Milo McLaughlin

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