To paraphrase Lena Dunham, Jenny Lewis was the voice of her generation, or at least a voice of a generation, which is still a pretty big deal. When Raina Douris came onstage to announce her set — the last on the River stage and of this year’s XPNFest — it was with clear reverence: “Her voice has accompanied me through some lonely and vulnerable moments, as well as some really happy ones.”
After walking onstage to the tune of “Jenny (867-5309)” and ecstatic applause, Lewis and her band of western-clad bad bitches launched into the breezy, beachy opening strains of “Just One of the Guys” from 2014’s The Voyager. On the banks of the Delaware, the reverb trails of her guitars stretched out as far as Route 101.
Lewis is a fantastic vocalist (look no further than the high note she hit on “Red Bull & Hennessy”), but her greatest talent is as an acid-tongued, endlessly wise songwriter. Being serenaded by Jenny Lewis is like hearing advice directly from your best friend or cool older sister.
Part of that’s because Lewis isn’t afraid of her own flaws. On “She’s Not Me,” over a bed of Eagles-channeling harmonies, she took accountability for cheating on a partner. The unreleased number “Joy’all” had the refrain of “I was a little kid a lot like you.”
You could hear at least one person singing along in the crowd to every single lyric. For every somebody, one of these lines was the single most important line—the one they needed to hear.
And what lyrics they were. Lewis knows how to punch you in the heart with a devastating couplet in an otherwise innocuous song — like “I’m just another lady without a baby” on “One of the Guys.” Yet “Heads Gonna Roll” and “Wasted Youth” proved that she can also take what would traditionally be a dour ballad and take the piss out of it.
These are songs sung from a few drinks deep, and the clarity that comes with that. I’m sure Lewis would agree, since she took the time to bless her Modelo during the show.
At the end of her introduction, Douris made a prediction about what kind of moment last night would be: “I think this is gonna be one of the happy ones.” It was, and a perfect way to close out the weekend of great music and glorious weather.