Monday, 6 July 2009

Live Free

With Yankee Independence Day falling handily on a Saturday this year - not to mention the sun finally deciding that a week deep into summer might be an appropriate time for it to finally emerge - Battery Park in lowest Manhattan saw a prime opportunity for a huge freebie. So it was then that, in the shadow of Lady Liberty, former Saddle Creek stable-mates Jenny Lewis and Conor Oberst - Mystic Valley Band included - hit the River 2 River stage for the big event.

Having had the temerity to arrive with pup in tow (see who could refuse that face??), access to the premium seating was unavailable, but thankfully the locale is wonderfully casual-viewer friendly with vantage points all around the park and ferry dock. Even so, at times these areas were also packed out, with a mixture of devoted hipster fans, local revellers, and bemused onlooking tourists, freshly released from the Statue tour ferry and drawn to the party.

Both artists got plenty of stage time, which was a pleasure to behold given some of the curtailed freebies that we've attended in recent months. Granted, it's taking liberties to ask for much when tout est gratuit, but it's nice to be treated to a full show when you get out there to witness something, nonetheless.

Jenny Lewis was first up, covering material from both her two solo releases and from longer term project, the much-loved Rilo Kiley. Looking every inch the down-home country girl, her tunes straddled the borders of indie, folk, and to some extent the country sounds to match her get up. Notable moments were You Are What You Love and The Next Messiah, both fine points spread across her two solo releases. Unsurprisingly joined by Oberst towards the end of the performance, an excited cheer was raised at the prospect of all still to come. Lewis' set was extremely well received, with many later putting her above Oberst as the event highlight, and a pleasant soundtrack to kick off a warm holiday celebration.

MP3: Jenny Lewis & the Watson Twins - Melt Your Heart
Taken from the album "Rabbit Fur Coat"
Buy it at Insound!

Much like Lewis - more so, in fact - Conor Oberst has multiple musical projects and a wealth of recorded material from which to pull when performing live. With excellent new disc "Outer South" just released, though, it's to be expected that many of these newbies are liberally sprinkled through the nearly 2 hour long set.

MP3: Conor Oberst & the Mystic Valley Band - Nikorette
Taken from the album "Outer South"
Buy it at Insound!

Looking faintly Amish in an extremely wide-brimmed hat.....looked like a cowboy hat from a distance, until my eagle-eyed better half pointed out it was much bigger.....and with a history of semi-rebellious musical output, Oberst cuts an odd figure to be representing all that is American on this most patriotic of days. Maybe that's the point, however. Set against the tragic farce of 'elections' in countries like Iran and Zimbabwe, that Americans can celebrate their national day with protest songs (including lines such as "I hope you haven't got too lazy / I know you like your apple pie / Cause the working poor you've been pissing on are doing double shifts tonight", poetically delivered a short walk from Wall Street) can only push home the general objective that some in those countries seek. It may not perfect but by comparison few would question the concept.

With the plethora of new stuff, a dearth of anything from Desaparecidos, and my general apathy/ignorance (delete as applicable) towards most things Bright Eyes, it's left to cuts like the aforementioned closer Roosevelt Room and Worldwide to provide my highlights. If anything the encore does drag a little, extended as it is from "one quiet one, one loud one" to an increasingly raucous medley of five songs, but it's sunny and everyone's on holiday, so there's not a complaint to be heard.

So yet more outstanding free live entertainment served up and the calendar shows no sign of letting up with freebies most Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays throughout the summer. In case I haven't mentioned it.....and if only to avoid buying one of those sodding t-shirts......I <3 NY.

Or, as another gentleman's shirt phrased it in so local a fashion: GO <3 YOUR OWN CITY.

Now playing: MEM - I Just Can't
via FoxyTunes

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