Welcome aboard The Voyager. I'm Jenny Lewis, I'll be your host for the evening.

Awesome. Effervescent. Humble. Cool. Goofy. Hypnotizing. These are all words that I can't get out of my head having seen Jenny Lewis absolutely murder a Lollapalooza after show at Park West last night. Like the true millennial girl I am, I've been a huge fan of Jenny and her former band, Rilo Kiley, for years but never had the opportunity to see her until last night. It is definitely something I can check off of my bucket list. Recently, The New York Times published an article about her (The Jenny Lewis Experience) which I read about a week ago and it got me even more excited to see her. They interviewed several other musicians --Beck, Connor Oberst, and Ben Gibbard-- about Jenny and her music. They all have collaborated with her in one way or another and all sang her praises as a musician, a performer, and a person. Most notably though, Gibbard's comment that she “turns into this other person on stage,” and is “this unbelievably powerful performer” got me totally geared up to see her. I have to say, that was a total understatement on his part. I really wasn't prepared for the emotional experience that was this concert.

I brought my friend Cami who had heard some of her music but more importantly would not be ashamed of my inevitable fan girl breakdown. In fact she was disappointed that more of the fans weren't dancing or at least mildly grooving to the music. We definitely were.

"These guys, am I right?"

Jenny and her band opened with her current single, "Just One of the Guys". It's a catchy tune and definitely has some of those notoriously quotable Jenny lines ("There's only one difference between you and me. When I look at myself, all I can see: I'm just another lady without a baby"). The song has gained recent popularity because of the star studded music video (Kristen Stewart, Anne Hathaway, and Brie Larson-- all friends of Lewis'-- play her "band members" and charmingly goof around with their instruments, intermittently dressing up as very girly men). I then, however, got that rush that only hearing one of your favorite songs played live can give you when the opening chords of "Silver Lining" began. This is arguably the best break-up song in the history of break-up songs. I guarantee that if you've recently split from someone and you give this song a listen you will feel immediately better ("I was your silver lining, but now I'm gold").

Jenny's new album --or her baby album as she charmingly called it-- was just released on Tuesday. So, other than the single, I was only passingly familiar with the other songs. As familiar as one could be having purchased the album four days ago. I have to say though, that it is a mark of a great performer that I felt as though I knew the songs already. She was so comfortable with them (even laughing at some of the sillier lyrics during "Aloha and the Three Johns"). She also approached her older songs with whimsy and charm, for example changing out lyrics-- "I guess that's why you keep *texting* me back" instead of "calling me back" in "You are What You Love"). You could tell she was totally in the moment and so happy to be there. Ben Gibbard wasn't kidding. She is an incredible performer. She lights up the stage and it is impossible to take your eyes off of her.

Never having seen her live, I didn't really know what to expect. I definitely wasn't expecting the palpable Janis Joplin-esque aura she exuded. Besides the cool, laid back wardrobe and a long head of hair that became more and more unruly as the show progressed, like Janis, Jenny was so present and you truly, and without pretension, felt her emotions in her singing. It so often unfortunately happens that people who write great music don't translate that emotion and passion into performance, but not Jenny. It was like watching an old friend perform for you; she exuded humility at the overwhelming love the audience was giving her and she gave it right back to us. It was by no means a small crowd and yet at times I felt that she was performing just for me. And then she would jump on a speaker and belt out a song (the best of these times happened during "The Next Messiah") as though she were on stage at the Hollywood Bowl -- and neither felt disingenuous. She would hop from instrument to instrument seamlessly, but in my opinion the best moments were when Jenny set them down and just sang along with her incredible band. She would float about the stage smiling and interacting with all of the other musicians, giving them frequent accolades and just generally rocking out with them. At times it felt as if we as the audience were just lucky enough to catch this super chill jam session.

Two of my favorite songs of the night were from her new album. First was "Love U Forever". It was one of those magical times when Jenny was just singing.

"I could love you forever
I could love you until all our hair turns gray
Now we are living in Ladonia Estates
And we eat out every night and drink every day
But there are some things money cannot say
Like the feeling of hell in a hallway
I could love you forever"

Jenny sang each "I could love you forever" as though it was the first time she had ever sung them, said them, even thought them. It was like watching someone realize they're in love and then witness them confessing it not only to us but to themselves. It was magical. 

The other was "Slippery Slopes". I had heard the song a few times since its release on Tuesday, but I hadn't really heard the lyrics until last night:

"Cause if you don't express it, you will express it later
With who, God only knows
If for just one second, it helps us to remember
That we like each other the most,
Slipping with brows, slippery slopes"

Jenny writes songs about love that are so honest and that express things that I know everyone has felt. She is somehow simultaneously blunt and poetic and she is fearless in writing about things most people find it hard to even think about.  I consider myself a very open and honest person. I don't play games with people and I don't like to hide how I'm feeling. Every man I've dated can back me up on that. Jenny gives me (and I'm sure so many others like me) hope that one day I'll find an outlet for my voice. Meanwhile I can listen to her songs and know I've got a kindred spirit out there who has gone through what I'm going through and has found a way to translate that suffering into art.

In everyone's lifetime there is one musician, author, artist that speaks to you. That writes, or paints things that you can imagine yourself writing or painting yourself. I'm sure I'm not the only girl in her late 20's who would say that Jenny Lewis is that for her. I've had a rough week to say the least and when the opening to "Better Son/Daughter" began, I knew that I was in the right place. This song has been my anthem for a long time now. When I'm down or feeling vulnerable I put it on and it makes me realize that I'm not alone. Every time I hear these lyrics all of the weakness and hurt I'm feeling turns into strength and motivation to be better:

"Your ship may be coming in
You're weak but not giving in
To the cries and the wails of the valley below
Your ship may be coming in
You're weak but not giving in
And you'll fight it you'll go out fighting all of them"

Now, I've never had an out of body experience. Hearing this song live for the first time with Jenny's emotion and honesty behind it, however, got me pretty close. The whole audience was singing and instead of discouraging or ignoring us she stood at the lip of the stage and with her body language and energy, beckoned us to sing with her. She came out for an encore after that and played two more songs. "Acid Tongue" and the first track on her new album "Head Underwater". While I am happy that she came out and performed a bit more, especially since "Acid Tongue" is my favorite song from her solo work (I mean -- "to be lonely is a habit, like smoking or taking drugs, and I've quit them both but man, was it rough"-- come on!) and I'm glad I got to hear it live, but I felt like ending on "Better Son/Daughter" was perfect. In that moment we were the singing friends she refers to in the lyrics. I started singing along and picked up my phone to film and stopped doing both almost immediately. Not because I felt disconnected, quite the opposite actually. I was so moved by her and everything about her performance that I didn't want to miss one second of it. I didn't want to experience it through a lens. I wanted to hear every inflection of her haunting voice, because it felt as though it was simultaneously her first and last performance. Something that I could have never experienced before last night and would never be able to experience again. It was a moment in time and one that I will never forget.

Thank you Jenny. I won't give in, I promise.

This one's for you, Rentfro.


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