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Jeffrey Lewis

Bad boys beg for money, singing on bar terraces and telling horrible stories. Jeffrey Lewis is an adorable bad boy.

Bad boys put everything into their songs. Guitar in hand, Jeffrey Lewis sings with a raised chin and a blasé attitude. Without his songs, though, he’s a shy little guy who is afraid of bothering anyone. When he showed up in front of le Progrès, he seemed rather small; he’d forgotten his casual air. He didn’t want to play inside the bar, for fear of bothering “all the nice people who’re drinking.” So we set them up on the terrace, him and his brother, and they cut loose, singing their songs and banging along with ashtrays.

The little guys are stubborn. While we were looking for a place to have them set up, we asked Jeffrey where he wanted to play, and he never stopped talking about his comic book. He took out a big dog-eared notebook in a dark plastic sack. He kept his coat on and planted himself in front of the wall of an old school. The light was unreal. I was sitting on the ground, the microphone in my hand, and I listened to his story. With the nuns murdered by a giant red hand. I wasn’t listening to a song anymore: I was the little boy.

The poor guys have stupidly fun games. At a bus stop in front of la Cigale, Jack sat down, Jeffrey took his guitar out and set its case on the ground. They had a little freezer bag with a few coins inside; they emptied it into the guitar case, and they started to play. We asked Sigrid to walk by and throw in a coin. She did, and the poor guy said thanks. Then a woman arrived. An older woman, a woman in bright pink. She stayed there, took out her wallet, and also dropped in a coin. Then she crossed over to watch the concert next to us, as we tried to contain our laughter and joy. At the end of the song, Jeffrey looked at the coins: she had given them a dollar.

Translated by Caitlin Caven