If someone asked you to imagine a New York comic-book store band, Jeffrey Lewis & Los Bolts is what you’d conjure up. Happy and unpretentious with that enviable east-coast edge, they’re the whole package.
And then the show begins and they’re so much more.
Taking observations from everyday life and making them raw, funny and touchingly relatable, Jeffrey Lewis quickly reveals he’s a master wordsmith. That he can create a (very funny) multiple-verse poem about how noisy and inconsiderate birds are perfectly illustrates his ability to articulate with unnerving precision, the seemingly incomprehensible meanderings of the mind.
Jeffrey skips from deadpan comic to soul-searching revelation, from absurd inanity (‘Champion Jim’, who whittles a new heart when he’s shot) to touching honesty (‘Outta Town’ is a must-hear track), all with the lightness of an urban grasshopper.
Accompanying these lyrical leaps is Jeffrey’s guitar playing, clearly influenced by his love of 60s pop. This love was affirmed during ‘LP Disease’, a song that struck a deeply resonant chord with many in the crowd, particularly when it referenced the lightening finger muscles he developed from years of flicking through second hand vinyl.
Ranging from Everly Brothers-esque to smash out punk pop, Jeffrey’s sound was always warm and cheerful. And Mem’s melodic bass, brother Jack’s beaming musical talent and Brent’s comic-book beach boy percussion were a perfect complement. Together they created an artfully arranged pop cacophony. And we loved it.
But Jeffrey Lewis isn’t just a genius lyricist and musician; he’s also a naturalist, keen to teach us about the wonderful world of animals. Take his illustrated “low-budget Netflix” release - a highlight of the evening – which taught us that,
“Cannibal monkeys like star fruit, they love to find this and eat this for the texture and sweetness. Cannibal monkeys trade songs, they all hang out and listen, in a mutual system. AND CANNIBAL MONKEYS EAT FACES! TILL NOTHING REMAINS FROM THE LIPS TO THE BRAINS, AAAHHH!”
It’s obvious that you don’t just ‘kind-of’ like Jeffrey Lewis; you discover him and you’re hooked, simple as. This sell-out audience had nothing but love, humour and whoops for him. Lyrically led, with a mixture of song, comic, poem and good old-fashioned rock out pulses, Jeffrey Lewis & Los Bolts at the Wheatsheaf has unquestionably taken its place as one of the best gigs of the year so far.