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Jenny Lewis
Conor Oberst and The Mystic Valley Band
River to River Festival
Sponsored by American Express
Battery Park
July 4, 2009

Written by Joshua Williams Photographed By Amy Davidson

Opposite Photo: Conor Oberst

233 years ago, the founding fathers decided to take a break from fighting the British. They grilled some hot dogs, washed it down with George Washington’s homemade beer, hired a band for entertainment, and finished off the festivities by firing projectiles in the air. True story. Really. Why else would we continue the tradition to this day? And in this continuation, I found myself celebrating the fourth of July with Jenny Lewis and Conor Oberst and his Mystic Valley Band.

I like the Battery Park location. It makes you wax nostalgic for those small town festivals you went to when you were young (if you grew up in the country). Some folding chairs, a grill, beers in cozies, and a three-fingered idiot shooting off roman candles would have greatly transformed the occasion.

Jenny Lewis
Jenny Lewis

Jenny Lewis

Ms Lewis was first up. She is still out in support of her second album, Acid Tongue (good name). She sashayed out on stage, as someone with two successful solo albums and success as a front-woman for a noted indie band should: full of confidence and bravado. She was all-American; denim clad and draped in the flag. Jenny is entertaining, and knows how to command a stage. And she should, given her acting roots. Musically, her set seemed apt for such a day. A little rock here, some alt-country there, maybe even a little bit of soul from time to time. It struck me as mid-western for lack of a better term. It was enjoyable, everyone from the very young to the old were having a good time, and it made for a good holiday barbeque soundtrack.

Conor Oberst

Up next to finish up the show were Conor Oberst and The Mystic Valley Band. He is definitely going for a more country rock approach on this outing, and unfortunately, I find it lacking. Isn’t this supposed to be the new troubadour for our times? It is as if someone has a music collection of all these amazing artists, yet it contains all those amazing artists’ worst albums. It should be great but it is not. Maybe I’m missing something. Maybe I expect too much. All I can tell you is I was bored throughout the entire set.

As the crowds shuffled out to find their way to optimum positions for viewing the evening’s fireworks, we took our leave of the borough of Manhattan. Just as Washington did in 1776, not too long after the signing of the declaration of independence. That one really is true.

Conor Oberst

Click here for more information about the River to River Festival.

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