Jeffrey Lewis & the Peter Stampfel Folk Band - Brudenell Social Club, Leeds - Gigs - Reviews - Soundblab

Jeffrey Lewis & the Peter Stampfel Folk Band - Brudenell Social Club, Leeds

by Andy Brown Rating:9 Release Date:2013-03-23

I have been lucky enough to see Jeffrey Lewis live a number of times over the years (once before with Peter Stampfel), yet no two shows have ever felt exactly the same. Lewis' combination of lo-fi indie aesthetics; comic book art; political/historical/stream of consciousness lyrics; folk leaning; a love of punk-rock, and a strong sense of humour have made him an engaging and consistently fresh-sounding performer.

Lewis is a natural talent and the kind of artist who would probably be busking and selling his comics out of the back of a car if he wasn't signed to Rough Trade. He's been casually displaying his genius since the release of 2001 album The Last Time I Did Acid I Went Insane and hasn't let the quality slip since those endearingly lo-fi beginnings. Tonight he's playing with 74-year-old Holy Modal Rounders/The Fugs legend Peter Stampfel. They struck up a relationship years ago and have been writing some new material together.

Before Lewis and Stampfel can blow our little minds, however, we are treated to a set from Birmingham's indie-pop types Misty's Big Adventure (or Little adventure as there's only three of them tonight). Misty's play sweet, often funny songs in the vein of Herman Dune yet manage to casually straddle a few genre labels in the process. There's a distinctive lounge-jazz vibe to 'I Want a Biscuit (You Can't Have One)' (which is dedicated to Cameron and Clegg) while 'Crumpled Up Guy' finds Gareth Jones singing a cappella. Lucy Baines' saxophone sounds awesome too.

Despite the age gap, Jeffrey Lewis and Peter Stampfel seem ideally placed to make music together. Both have played around with preconceptions of folk music, gained a cult following and have a love of comic books, rebellion and joyful subversion. Tonight they look relaxed and genuinely happy on stage, chatting to each other and the crowd and smiling from ear-to-ear. The rest of the band (including The Wave Pictures' Franic Rozycki on mandolin duties) ties the whole thing together perfectly. The music often has a hoedown quality to it, with Stampfel's banjo and Rozycki's mandolin weaving through the songs.

I don't recognise a lot of the songs tonight as its mainly material Lewis and Stampfel have been writing together but this is far from disappointing. You don't go to see Jeffrey Lewis to hear the same set-list time after time. You go to experience a special, unique performance. Don't film whole sets on your camera phone; this won't happen again.

There's always plenty of variety at a Jeffrey Lewis show. There's a song about Pussy Riot called 'What Would Pussy Riot Due?' which Lewis dedicates to the lack of genuine rebellion amongst US musicians of late. There's a new comic book projection from Lewis involving an embarrassing trip to an adult video store and some shameful parrot-based pornography (much funnier than I'm making it sound, go check out his artwork for a better idea).

There's Stampfel's reverse take on soft-rock radio hit 'Spirit in the Sky' called 'Demon in the Ground' ("I'm gonna go to the place that's the worst!"). There's a tune about Stampfel's huge collection of bottle caps and a completely unexpected Hawkwind cover (with sax accompaniment from Misty's Lucy Baines). It's an absolute riot and a brilliant show.

I get talking to Peter Stampfel after the show and it's heartening to find a guy so genuinely enthusiastic about what he's doing. I hope I get to see them play together again. I'm sure it will be different. I'm sure it will be great.

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