[Jandek] Chicago - "Is this on?"

Knott, Evan Eknott at andersonkill.com
Thu Sep 21 12:50:30 PDT 2006

I have to generally concur with Mark (hello again Mark!) that the show was
totally amazing and mind blowing (in fact, witnessing the show inspired me
to re-sub to the list to share thoughts).
However, a few differing perspectives (take them for what they're worth):
The lyrics (as they've been trending lately) seemed a little weak in my
opinion, at least when examined separate from the music.  Curiously, a few
songs seemed to employ a rhyming couplet, in contrast to his style on nearly
all of the records.  I guess the weakness of the lyrics was not that they
were generally few and far between for each song, but rather the songs took
on a sort of predictable, repetitive format as the show progressed (seems
hard to believe that anything jandek does could be predictable).  he'd
generally start each song with a lead in, then a build-up of rhthym
followed, then he'd sing a lyric or two, grind around for a few minutes,
sing another couple of lyrics, grind some more, and then close with the same
opening lyric or two.  the words themselves, in isolation, were not
particularly evocative, but in many instances were very powerful when
combined with the music and the way he timed their delivery (e.g., the song
about the red skirt where he quipped "I don't know why I feel this way..."
probably the most poignant expression about indifference I've ever heard).
Apart from this, everything was super tight, and the musicians were
definitely communicating very well musically.  Josh Abrams' bass playing,
nearly inconceivably, seemed to be in tune with and providing melodic
counterpoints to jandek's gnashing.  Jandek's guitar tone was not as fuzzy
or muddy as in the UK performances, which enhanced the music.  At several
points Jandek played what sounded like were almost standard blues chords,
but these would dissolve away into dissonance almost as soon as they were
sounded.  Also, Jandek's playing at times veered into some phrasing using
single-string picking, at times quite melodic, reminded a bit of the
mid-period electric albums from the late 1980s early 1990s.  Exciting stuff.
The selection of McEntire for the drums was stupendous (if not all that
surprising); he's arguably the most gifted drummer out there hitting skins.
Other commentators noted that Jandek was at his most rockingness in Chicago,
which I agree with.  And what a relief!  After his first couple of European
performances, I feared that Jandek's live performances would be too closely
driven and influenced by the 'New Weird America' or "freak folk" scenesters
and their wankiness peddled by the Wire Magazine crowd.
Jandek hung around a bit after his set, standing near the very back of the
sound woman's console.  About midway through Rhys Chatham's unintentionally
hilarious take on doom metal, Jandek headed for the exit (as did I, and
returned for Tim Hecker's amazing set at the very end of the night).
I noticed that Seth posted on his website that some "wag" shouted out "where
you been, man?" after Jandek's first song.  That kind of dig is unnecessary,
especially since Jandek himself was nearly laughing (not just smiling, as
seth reported).  Never have I seen a show at the Empty Bottle where the
crowd was completely silent once the performer got on stage.  While this
show of respect and deference was moving, I think the Jandek crowd sometimes
takes things a little too seriously, and the guy's comment, while silly and
essentially unnecessary, was sort of a welcome effort to lighten things up a
bit.  Besides, Jandek himself has chosen to take on a somewhat more public
persona (albeit still a very limited one), and I don't think it's out of the
question to try a little harmless engagement with him.  At the same time,
this would've been a bad idea if Jandek did one of his more somber,
introspective shows, but with the rocking set he was playing, I think it was
consistent with the mood.  It was very humanizing to see Jandek nearly
laughing along with the crowd.
Anyone going to Indianapolis in December?
-----Original Message-----
From: Mark Greenberg [mailto:mark at mayfairrecordings.com] 
Sent: Thursday, September 21, 2006 1:48 PM
To: jandek at mylist.net
Subject: Re: [Jandek] Chicago - "Is this on?"

Yes, TREMENDOUS is right! John McEntire (Tortoise, Sea and Cake, etc, etc)
on drums, Josh Abrams (Chicago Underground Duo, Town and Country, Sam Prekop
band, etc) on his little Musicmaster bass. They really rocked it. I saw
Jandek smile back at them (well, kind of to himself) twice in the first few
songs... he seemed to enjoy the ability to rock it out. John did a great job
of also having looser chaos and quiet moments too. Josh often droned in open
strings but also seemed to find chord changes  that added a lot to some of
Jandek's stationary strumming. All in all I thought they did a fantastic job
not just following Jandek, but also at times leading him. They worked like
three strong musicians rather than someone and his backing band I thought.
I was blown away! 

After the first song the crowd exploded with applause. Then someone called
out, "Where have you been, man?" It got a big laugh with the crowd and a
warm chuckle from Jandek. 

His lyrics few great.... not a ton of lyrics, but good heavy ones that stood
well alone... He seems to often return to his first line at the end of each
song... more so than he does on record as I recall. I wonder if that is a
cue to the other musicians. He played the same black electric guitar I have
seen in pictures from other shows through a (provided?) Line 6 amp. I was
lucky enough to be standing with people outside the club when he pulled up
in a cab all dressed in his black suit. He started to walk the wrong way
down the street but then turned around and smile toward us. He said hi to
Seth as he went into the club. It was great to see he was carrying a guitar,
especially after hearing about his recent use of synth. 

It was nice to see and talk to a few folks from the list as well and to meet
Seth. Between the Touch & Go festival last week with Scratch Acid reuniting,
the Smog show with Joanna Newsome as his sole band mate, two Vashti Bunyan
shows, and THIS, I am flying high in the friendly skies with inspiration! A

Mark Greenberg

On Sep 21, 2006, at 12:40 PM, Danen D. Jobe wrote:

Don't have much time to write at the moment, but DEAR LORD.

I was real worried at first - noisy bar, smoky environment, etc. There was
no stand for his lyrics either, which he had to request, and then the mic
wasn't working ("is this on" became his sole "on stage speech" to this
point. Funny).

The band were TREMENDOUS. This rocked harder than anything I'd ever seen him
do, with a rolling bass hitting off John McEntire's often double-timed
drums. The lyrics were about prison, God, and a topless girl in a red skirt.
The singing was very controlled - he took a bit of what he was doing in
Toronto and combined it with "the howl." I took a friend who'd never heard
of Jandek until a few days earlier (he went to see my reading and decided to
take in the concert). After the show he said, "I can't imagine the records
could equal that." Had to explain that the records were a whole other deal.
But really, the man is setting the bar right now. Both of these shows, I
felt, put a new high water mark. Where he goes from here will be very

gotta go,


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