The Rapidian

Jeffrey Lewis headlines Sunday DAAC event

Fans gather at the DAAC to see Ant-Folk hero Jeffrey Lewis perform.
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Jeffrey Lewis plays DAAC Sunday Nov 18

Jeffrey Lewis mixes comic book art and humor to breathe fresh life into acoustic music.

/Tiffany Compton

Last Sunday, November 18, the Division Avenue Arts Cooperative (The DAAC) was host to an eclectic mix of music headlined by Indie anti-folk darling Jeffrey Lewis from New York City. The DAAC is an interesting venue in its own right, run by volunteers and funded by the events it hosts, it offers truly independent and diverse functions in the heart of Grand Rapids. The modest stage has hosted yoga, poetry and local acts- but this Sunday night show was a pleasant surprise and a great chance to see an artist on the rise in a more intimate environment.

Jeffrey Lewis’ reputation, along with his fun colorful mix of comics, albums and merchandise were enough to draw a crowd. Lewis happily signed albums and comic books and talked about his music and his other love, comics. Among the sizeable crowd of Jeffrey Lewis fans was Grand Rapid’s own Joshua Burge (a.k.a. Chance Jones), who joked that he had already planned on going and was lucky enough to perform as to avoid paying the $10 cover charge.

With jokes like that paired with nervous laughter and the occasional fumble for a capo or set list made the pauses between songs feel like those awkward pauses on a first date. Perhaps that was his intention or an after-effect of playing a failed comedian in the movie APE, but that nervous quality was somehow endearing. Stripped of the security of large all-star band and the comfort of a busy bar-type setting you get to see the real human side of Chance Jones, which is an equally special experience. Jones played many of his hits and played lesser known tongue-twister song "Mutual Hostage Situation" as an homage to Lewis.  

“When I was young I was incredibly impacted by what was going on at the Sidewalk Cafe in NYC. I saw so many talented people perform there. I felt the artists in New York City had so much ambition and little talent. I felt the artists in the Midwest had so much talent and little ambition," Burge said. "The exceptions to that rule continue to play music some 14 years later in both cities. I feel incredibly fortunate that Grand Rapids has been able to host Jeffery Lewis, Kimya Dawson, Paleface, Grey Revell and Regina Spektor.”

I originally thought it would be a singer-songwriter who played solo much to the likes of Joe Jack Talcum when he toured minus the Dead Milkmen. However, he had with him his junkyard band which consisted of his brother Jeff on bass and keys and Bronx-native David Beauchamp on drums .

I only knew a few things about Jeffrey Lewis prior to attending this event, mainly that he was a native of New York City, that he drew comic books, and that his music was considered “anti-folk." From what I gather anti-folk is the idea of writing music with the intent to express and not impress. What I walked away with is that anti-folk is a clever use of words never intended to be sung outside someone’s window to win their favor. When Jeffrey Lewis and his junkyard band started playing the Suicidal Tendencies’ song, “Institutionalized” I perked up. It was definitely something unexpected but it made so much sense in context. That song is a funny irreverent song about a kid who is completely normal but the parents are convinced they are on drugs.

Lewis' songs speak to his love of humor. I especially enjoyed the song “When You’re by Yourself” a wordy rambling song about how awkward it can be to eat by yourself. His humor transcends into his comics and the performance is something unique to the folk scene, or any scene for that matter.

In a 2005 interview with the BBC, Lewis explained his take on the New York anti-folk scene. 

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