Schizophrenic Gender Confusion over Jenny Lewis at Freebird Live
by Jon Bosworth
My dude side said: I didn't think there'd be so many guys here. But then a lesbian friend told me she skipped the womens room line by using the mens room, and my chick side was all "you go grrl." I realize my girl side is pretty dorky, but wait until my dude side has a few more whiskeys. Then everyone at the Jenny Lewis show will know who the real ass is. I didn't know much about Jenny. I know she often reminds me of Loretta Lynn. I also know she did some stuff with Postal Service (Ben Gibbard from Death Cab is Barsuk labelmates with her former band). And I've heard a couple of songs by some band called Riley Cairo or something (I love making up new misnomers for Rilo Kiley). The truth is: I've tried to avoid alt country ever since Jason Trachtenburg told me his then 13-year old daughter (and drummer for the Trachtenburg Family Slideshow) could do anything she put her mind to, except be in an alt country band.
"Let's hope we never have to have that conversation," he said, dreading it more than any birds and bees conversation.
But when you're at Freebird Live in Jacksonville and some girl flies, guitar and hair engaged, into a honky tonk jam, both my dude and chick sides were like "oh damn."
My dude side said we should've gotten there early enough to catch the opener and the highly celebrated Heartless Bastards, but my chick side said drinks would be cheaper at the new pizza place up the street. My chick side always wins the alcohol argument. I arrived just in time for Jenny's set.
Although it escaped my Loretta Lynn archetype almost immediately, it went on to sound like a young woman with an uncanny grasp of the fundamentals of blues-oriented southern rock. Could this be right? Could the child actor who starred opposite Fred Savage in the 80s video game movie The Wizard really be capable of authenticity in her music? Is it possible that a 30-year old woman that was born and raised out west could grasp the fundamentals of southern music? People thought my skepticism was unfounded, after all she has played with many of my favorites, including Cursive and the aforementioned Postal Service, but those were West Coast types of bands. And sure, she did some stuff with Conor Oberst, whose music often borders on brilliance and his country western efforts are especially compelling, but authenticity is hardly Conor's strong suit, so that gave me no reason to expect anything real. I mean this is Freebird Live. Charlie Daniels plays this stage. The Skynyrd family OWNS the damn stage, if you're fake on that stage, it shows. I've seen plenty of alt country and folk rock bands get up there and immediately their true colors showed. They may not have been ashamed, but I left embarrassed to tell people what I did that weekend. Mason Jennings? No, you didn't see me at that gay show, I'd never go to that hackneyed loser's city hippy jam? It must have been my dorky dorky doppleganger. Or my chick side without my dude side in tow.
But just like that Jenny turned from cheeseball alt country to something genuine. Right before my eyes. Did you see that happen, Trachtenburg? Take note: alt country can get you that quick. While my chick side was really starting to get into it, trying to hang my hair in my face and swing my hips, my dude side recuperated by remembering Allison Kraus and realizing: Jenny Lewis isn't really blazing new ground. She has plenty of precedent she could spend time studying until she was able to present a really compelling facsimile of authenticity. My chick side countered with: you're rocking your head (the dude version of dancing). Her music has an indie feel that you can't help but dig. It even makes me want to forgive the alt country aspects, because the ripping southern rock style guitar solos ring true at The Freebird, that hallowed hall of Jacksonville's rock legacy. My dude side did point out that it isn't really girl rock, her band is loaded with dudes. To which my chick side pointed out that the drummer was a girl. THE FUCKING DRUMMER! And I was sold. Jenny Lewis played with balls, and that made me respect all things ovarian. Mars and Venus were aligned at the close of Jenny Lewis' set.