[Jandek] Jandek at The Bug Theatre

matt love mattlove1 at gmail.com
Sun Aug 10 08:36:20 PDT 2008


Jandek @ the Bug
alex edgeworth on July 29, 2008

 [image: jandek]<http://blogs.denverpost.com/reverb/?pp_album=main&pp_cat=default&pp_image=jandek.jpg>

*Jandek, the enigmatic singer-songwriter from Corwood Industries, in younger

Jandek <http://tisue.net/jandek/>has never played Denver in his 30 years of
releasing records, you say? Well, break out the confetti.

Fans and gawkers alike funneled themselves down the aisles of the
claustrophobic Bug Theatre <http://www.bugtheatre.org/> on Friday night,
excitement flaring gently in their nostrils. Collected onstage were notable
Denver faces, including Andrew
Nightshark <http://www.myspace.com/111538979> and Brittany Gould of Married
in Berdichev <http://www.myspace.com/marriedinberdichev>. Perhaps this was
an act of goodwill to appease the Denver avant-gods, who, luckily, are more
turns mirthful than wroth.

The show was seated, meaning that the audience was stripped of normal
posturing and arm-folding and instead assigned disembodied heads of various
shapes and sizes, which formed an eerie sea in the blue dark. Jandek, hidden
by the angular shadow thrown by his fedora, was who we'd come to see,
although nobody had any idea what his name was or where he was from. He was
a sliver of a person, skeletal, with white skin stretched taut over his
frame and clothes hanging on him as from a wire hanger. Thumbing his bass,
he spoke atonally into the microphone as the band clattered and whirred
behind him. The mysteriousness of the whole operation lay thick in our

(The entity known as) Jandek never plays the same show, swinging from
experimental, outsider puttering to folksier treatments. On Saturday there
was none of the latter. Things were kept strictly weird, but it was wild
woolliness that any fan of the unorthodox might find familiar. Were they all
just jamming together, or was there some sort of agreed-upon format? It was
fun to imagine the ghostly musician muttering instructions into a team
huddle, arms gripping flanking shoulders, eyes rooted timidly to the ground.

I probably should have just asked; then, perhaps, I could join the ranks of
the scant few who've ever talked to the man at length. He didn't seem like
someone who enjoys humanity buzzing in his ear. When performing, it seemed
as though he was unaware that he was standing in a roomful of people.

He was up there alone, like a man waiting at a crossroads. His backing band,
on the contrary, seemed very aware, looking up every now and then with coy
wonderment. What now, Mr. Jandek? Shall we begin another song?

Indeed, more songs came, and quite similar songs at that. The formula, if
there was one, reminded me of childhood, when I would make up a tune with
friends and we'd sing along in sentences, giggling because we weren't
rhyming and weren't trying to. This was adult playtime, and with feeling:
the scatterbrain rhythms and breathy backing vocals didn't make much sense,
but they held a world-weariness that children can't fake.

You should have seen the veins bulge and quiver in that skinny man's neck
every time he prolonged a note. But the voice was just a voice, neither
husky nor high, and the words hung dead in the air, chilly and flat against
the fuss in the background. Suddenly, he began to smile and move in the
direction of Ms. Gould, who I could see was also smiling. The two smiles
became grins; they held for a moment, and dissolved as the slim figure slunk
back to his post.

What had we just seen? Do historic events have tremors that can be felt?
Outside, post-show, the atmosphere was breathless, but skeptically so. "That
was great," evinced one fellow, who was beaded in sweat (how?). "What did
you think?" I asked a friend. "I don't know," he responded plainly. Similar
conversations peppered the sidewalk, usually with answers ending in question
marks: "Cool?" "Neat?" I'm certain most of the people that night felt that
they were bearing witness to something important, especially if they'd
followed the work of Jandek faithfully, but if they, too, believed that
history carried a noticeable weight on one's skin, they might have felt
disappointed that they couldn't feel it.

Perhaps the answer might be to cope the Jandek way — by smiling widely and
then moving away, gently, back into the ordinary.

*Alex Edgeworth is a Denver-based writer and regular Reverb contributor.*
  1 Comment <http://blogs.denverpost.com/reverb/2008/07/29/jandek-the-bug-theatre/#postcomment>


   Assuming anything about the person of Jandek through his perfromance is
   silly. Regardless of his reputation for not being a public person, he is no
   different in 'knowability' than Mariah Carey. Media sells an image and
   people buy into it. You don't know Mimi any more than you don't know Jandek.
   At least the persona Jandek's created forces the viewer to be more honest.
   You project what you want to see onto it because there's nothing to hang
   your hat on. You know Mariah Carey's a nutcase behind a glossy well
   publicized life. You can't assume anything about Jandek.

   Comment by peter — July 31, 2008 @ 9:22

Love me, love my vids
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