Show Review: Jenny Lewis and Heartless Bastards


by Jack Diablo

Venue: Freebird Live
Date: June 30, 2009
As the face of Rilo Kiley and a former child actor, Jenny Lewis has solidified her place as America’s indie sweetheart. You’d be hard pressed these days to find a boy between the age of 18-35 who doesn’t have a massive crush on her, whether he’ll admit to listening to her sensitive songs or not. She recently stopped by Freebird Live on tour with her solo alt-country project.
Before the packed out crowd got a peek at this modern legend, they were treated to the bluesy rock of Heartless Bastards. Their recorded stuff has a definite southern tinge to it, but despite previously touring with the likes of Lucinda Williams and playing at the famed Ryman Auditorium, their live show proves they are decidedly more rock n roll than country. There is even a little garage in their sound and just a hint of the psychedelic. Erika Wennerstrom belted out soulfully fierce and raspy vocals despite her petite frame while the band kicked out the jams with an unexpected intensity. They even got a little gnarly towards the end, demonstrating no fear of making a little noise. It’s safe to say that Heartless Bastards turned more than a few heads and recruited a healthy number of new fans.
When Jenny Lewis took the stage, the crowd erupted with applause as she proceeded to rock harder than I would have thought possible. I was expecting a cute girl in a vintage dress playing some laid back acoustic tunes, not a sultry vixen channeling the rambunctious step-daughter of Patsy Cline. Lewis does adorable and seductive with equal grace so far as to cause even the females in the audience to swoon as she snarled and tossed her hair in front of her face. Most of the set was of a much higher energy than the vibe one gets from her first release, Rabbit Fur Coat. Without the Watson Twins, Lewis is able to strut and jive with her band including her wild female drummer and percussionist who ended the night with an unexpected but damn good drum solo outro.
Although I’ve always enjoyed what she’s done with Rilo Kiley and this solo project, I wasn’t expecting much more than some good tunes. Seeing Jenny Lewis rock out coupled with the explosive surprise that was Heartless Bastards, I left Freebird incredibly impressed with a new found respect for both acts.