Jenny Lewis, Conor Oberst, music fans heart America

6 07 2009

by Jill Menze (@JillMenze)

Conor Overst, Jenny Lewis, River to River July 4

Conor Oberst, Jenny Lewis, River to River July 4

The River to River July 4 concert at Battery Park has seen some choice acts headline over the past few years — Belle & Sebastian in ’06 (which I’m still kicking myself for missing), New Pornographers in ’07 and Sonic Youth last year — and this year was no exception, with Jenny Lewis and Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band lending their talents to help celebrate Independence Day. (And as an added bonus, unlike the past couple years: NO RAIN!)

Music fans flooded the small-ish Battery Park grounds (the show was free, after all) to catch a glimpse of the former Saddle Creek buds, but from the safety of the media area, there were good views, good sound and good catering (save the not-frozen Icee pop. A tube of blue syrup is never a good idea. Lesson learned).

Jenny Lewis’ set was not unlike her one at Bonnaroo, previewing a couple new tunes (see a performance of “Big Wave” below) and rolling through favorites like “The Next Messiah,” “Rise Up with Fists,” and “Carpetbaggers,” and offering delicate acoustic takes on “Acid Tongue” and Rilo Kiley’s “Silver Lining.” The Taveling Wilburys’ “Handle Me with Care,” which Lewis recorded with Ben Gibbard, M. Ward and Conor Oberst on “Rabbit Fur Coat,” saw Oberst joining his pal onstage, and wasn’t it kinda cute how they shared the mic? Kudos to Lewis’ band, too, who, alongside her boyfriend Jonathan Rice and Farmer Dave Scher, is consistently full of energy and life.

Conor Oberst, River to River July 4

Conor Oberst, River to River July 4

Having seen Oberst in various incarnations since I was a teenager (Nebraska, represent), it’s nice to see him finally come into his own as he has with the Mystic Valley Band on their past two releases. Which also means live, there are no more temper tantrums, no more half-played sets. Rather, it’s an hour-plus of the Bright Eyes frontman expertly jamming with his buddies, with songs like “Sausalito,” “I Don’t Want to Die (In the Hospital)” and a blistering take on “Roosevelt Room” driving the set home. Sure, he rambled “thank you so much” roughly 64 times and questioned his whereabouts in the city of New York, but it’s a vast improvement over his hissy-fit days.

Overall, can’t think of a better way to spend a sunny afternoon on a holiday in New York. Happy 4th of July, God Bless America, etc, etc, etc.




One response

2 02 2010

hey, I took that video! šŸ™‚ can’t beat the spot right in front of Jenny.

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