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Arts and Entertainment

Jenny Lewis sighting! (Concert Review: Whispertown 2000 & Jonathan Rice @ The Echo 07/21/07)

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Friday night was my first night back in the states from my vacation in Europe and it was strange. Needless to say, I've been sleep-deprived and delirious for days now. Echo Park is screwy place to be the day you get back from vacation. Between witnessing some dude walking down the street with a 5 foot long boa constrictor and a Jenny Lewis induced-frenzy, I felt even more delirious. With the Jenny Lewis connections a plenty, I should have expected some sort of guest appearance, but a boa constrictor on the streets of LA?!

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Whispertown 2000 opened the show with an unusual country inspired unplugged set. It came as no surprise that they have played along side Rilo Kiley and The Elected. Their dreamy lo-fi folk tunes came across as slightly less powerful than expected, but perhaps that was because the drummer was rapping out tattoos on an overturned plastic tub. Strange. They playfully churned out an extensive set dominated by new songs, sporadically interspersed with songs from their 2006 release, 'Living in a Dream'. Their raw arrangement comprised a loosely constructed, ineffectual folk campaign. However, under any other plugged in circumstances I probably would have been swaying and clapping along in my bohemian get-up.

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If you know anything about Jonathan Rice, it's probably that he's Jenny Lewis' long-time boo. Let's not delude ourselves. The two are inextricably related and I'd have to say it works for him, but mostly against him. Why? Jenny Lewis' pseudo-celebrity status completely overshadows him. Unfortunately, he will forever remain Jenny Lewis' boo in my mind. I simply can't see beyond it. Jonathan skittishly ran through a bevy of new songs from the forthcoming record, all of which were presented in a Vh1 Storytellers manner. He introduced each song with convoluted summaries explicating their fruition. Just before 'Ballad of King Coyote', Jonathan recollected a bizarre sort of anthropomorphic story involving Beck and a coyote. His set proceeded awkwardly until he presented the special, somewhat obligatory, guest: Jenny Lewis (of Rilo Kiley). The crowd, who had been swooning over Jonathan, immediately directed all of their attention to her. Snapping photos and turning to one another in amazement, the crowd nearly lost it when the dainty redhead popped up out of nowhere. It was as though the Rice world stopped revolving for a few minutes while Jenny took stage to sing backing vocals for two songs, most memorably 'End of The Affair'. Jonathan concluded the set with a (surprise!) Bob Dylan cover and bet audience members they wouldn't be able to name the song. He lost and promptly threw his arms out in the air with the money. With roughly 95% of the set list being new, the die-hard crowd seemed thoroughly contented. Although there were a series of self-proclaimed bad jokes, none of which I "got", I enjoyed the minimalist Dylan-esque performance.

I'm willing to acknowledge that the experience turned me into an embittered man for a moment or two. How could such a timorous man, one who would occasionally check in with the crowd to ensure satisfaction, score Jenny Lewis? She absolutely stole the night away just by being there. I'm sure it happens everywhere she's goes. What a babe, what a night.

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Whispertown 2000's Set List:

'103'
'Shamrock'
'Done With Love'
'Fish Song'
'ACA'
'Walrus'
'Pushing Cars'
'Through A Hole'
'Goodbye Baby'
'Jambo'

Jonathan Rice's Set List:

'Further North'
'It Couldn't Be Me'
'The Middle of the Road'
'Ballad of King Coyote'
'Behind the Frontlines'
'Like a Crown'
'I Wouldn't Miss It For The World'
'The End of the Affair'
'The Way Down'
'We're All Out Stuck Out In The Desert'