[Jandek] Show report

Seth Tisue seth at tisue.net
Wed Aug 31 23:42:19 PDT 2005

(or as much of one as I've had time to write so far)

The Austin show went off without a hitch.  It lasted about 90 minutes
without a break.  There were no opening bands.

The representative from Corwood Industries sang and played electric
guitar.  A light from the side of the stage cast his twenty foot tall
shadow on the side wall, or rather on the objects covering the wall,
objects that are never far from Jandek: curtains.

He was backed by three young local musicians, Nick Hennies (drumkit),
Chris Cogburn (drumkit), and Juan Garcia (electric bass). Hennies lives
in Austin and is a member of the Weird Weeds
<http://www.weirdweeds.com/> and the Austin New Music Co-op
<http://www.newmusiccoop.org/>. Cogburn is a Austin-based improvisor who
has played with Dave Dove, Joe McPhee, and others. Garcia lives in
Houston and plays improvised music.

The show was videotaped by two camera operators. One camera was on a
tripod in the balcony; the other was on the shoulder of a roving
operator who sometimes got quite close to the singer.  It seemed to be a
"shoot", not just bare documentation.

Musically, the biggest development since previous shows was in the
guitar. Jandek's guitar playing was front and center at this show; he
brought his live guitar style to a whole new level. He was playing more
confidently, more variedly, and with a lot less reverb and effects, so
everything he played stood out clearly. He was playing across a wider
pitch range and playing a lot more "lead" guitar, not as much "rhythm"
-- to the extent that you can apply those terms to his unconventional

The backing band did a fine job. The two drumkits often blended together
in my ears, but when the players were distinguishable, it was because
Cogburn used a lot more unconventional playing techniques (rubbing
cymbals with his drumsticks, and so forth) and unusual sounds drawn from
the post-jazz improvised-music tradition, while Hennies kept it simpler
and blended into the group sound more. While Garcia's playing was never
busy, he's a more mercurial player than the serene and imperturable
Richard Youngs we heard on the U.K. shows and recordings. Garcia seemed
to attract Jandek's attention and the two of them got lot of good
back-and-forth going between bass and guitar, particularly during some
instrumental sections in the three or so louder, more aggressive songs,
when the whole band was digging in, rocking out, kicking up a fierce,
choppy racket, irregular but propulsive, The Rocks Crumble/Interstellar
Discussion style.

Jandek rarely played guitar and sang at the same time; his right hand
would stop, or slow down and strum just lightly, leaving a lull to
dramatically frame each line or two of lyrics.  (You can hear this on
the earlier live recordings as well.)  He'd lean in close to the mike to
deliver each line, always forming the words carefully so they were
clearly audible.  Apparently he didn't want us to miss a word, having
written them especially for the occasion.

Yes, all the lyrics were new. He beat himself up pretty hard: he's "an
ugly man, not beautiful," in fact "the sorriest human being ever," his
body is "decrepit," his soul "anguished," his mind "forever forgetting."
He's "a failure," "stricken, forsaken," "six feet under."  The best he
can say is "It gives me pleasure to be in pain" -- every cloud has a
silver lining. He claims in the first song that "I don't care about
girls/ I don't care about boys," but he's just trying to convince
himself; the "you" in many songs is a woman, although others might be
addressed his god instead, as when he's "on my knees begging to you... I
see you in all the glory you are."

The songs were abstract, interior or interpersonal, occasionally
metaphysical, with few concrete images or objects. At the Gateshead show
there were barstools, worms, guns, neckties, telephones, tattoos, and
snowmen; in Austin there was only a pillow, a few empty chairs, and the

Seth Tisue - seth at tisue.net - http://tisue.net

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