As I sit here typing this, Nashville is being threatened with its first significant snowfall of the season. Mind you, “significant” in this case is a very relative term, so it’s not like we’re going to be having to deal with anxiety-inducing detours and weather days any time soon. But I think I speak for everyone when I say that we could use a little bit more sun, so it’s a good thing that Jenny Lewis brought her breezy and carefree road show to Marathon Music Works the weekend before the weather starts to force us into counting down the days until festival season, which Ms. Lewis is sure to be owning come summertime.
The night at Marathon (my first time at the venue, one that impressed me with both its sound system and its amount of elbow room) started off with an opening set from a longtime favorite of mine, the Brooklyn-via-Alabama grunge folk artist Waxahatchee. The brainchild of Katie Crutchfield, formerly of the brilliant pop-punk sister act P.S. Eliot, Waxahatchee’s catalog consists of songs of drunken ecstasy and hungover regret with equal aplomb. While the subject matter might seem like a strange contrast to the overall peppiness provided by Jenny Lewis, Katie and her backing band (including her sister Allison, who also fronts the dreadfully underrated Swearin’) proved themselves more than capable of setting the table for the night’s obvious main course.
The excitement was palpable in the air for Jenny and friends’ relatively early 9:00 stage time, the crowd quickly erupting to “Silver Lining”, a cut from Ms. Lewis’s past life as the frontwoman of the cult indie poppers Rilo Kiley. Knowing she already had the crowd in the pockets of her now-infamous rainbow pantsuit, a simple “what’s up Nashville?” sent her fans over the edge, with a rendition of The Voyager’s hit single “Just One of the Guys” providing a safe landing spot. Although there were no Anne Hathaway or (even more disappointingly) Brie Larson sightings, the packed Marathon crowd let out a palpable roar at Jenny’s declaration of herself as “just another lady without a baby”, a slightly melancholy assertion of independence if there ever were one.
The following song was a personal favorite of mine: “Head Underwater”, the opening track of The Voyager and a bright ditty about believing in yourself only after you accept how chaotic life can be. Much of the set after this and the subsequent rendition of “Slippery Slopes” went over my head, as I have to admit here to Rilo Kiley being a major blind spot in my knowledge of early 2000s indie rock. What I can say with confidence is that not only did the crowd seem to be mostly there to hear songs from that era of Ms. Lewis’s early years, but that she was also more than willing to oblige and carefully evoke these feelings of nostalgia from her audience.
Case in point, she even went so far as to cover a Grateful Dead standard, “Shakedown Street”. While I can’t imagine there being a large overlap between Deadheads and Jenny Lewis fans, she rose to the occasion, reshaping psychedelia in her own image. I personally couldn’t help but think about how many more months were left until Bonnaroo, where I’m imagining Ms. Lewis and her excellent backing band lighting up Which Stage on Saturday afternoon to an emphatic festival crowd. This prediction was further invoked when several colorful balloons were released towards the end of her set, bouncing around for a couple of songs and making me wish I was catching this set on a sunny day at The Farm as opposed to a brisk night indoors.
Is it June yet?
Images via Daniel Patlan /// Flickr