Conor Oberst and The Mystic Valley Band
River to River Festival
Sponsored by American Express
July 4, 2009
Joshua Williams Photographed By Amy Davidson
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
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
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.
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.
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