[Jandek] Northern Ireland July

Paul Condon paulgcondon at gmail.com
Fri Jul 31 11:42:24 PDT 2009

Larne was easily the weirdest situation of the tour. The venue was the
upstairs function room of the Older Fleet, the sort of place that
might normally host small wedding receptions and the like. The locals
drinking downstairs seemed bemused by the activity. There were
probably about two dozen people in the room including musicians.
Christina Carter played a very hypnotic, rambling and woozy solo
guitar set, mostly improvised, with little singing. It was her first
solo show for a while and each of her four sets of the tour were a
little more intense and structured than the last.

There was no stage in the room, so the band were set up on the floor
along the length of the room with the audience seated opposite. All
the sets on the tour consisted of a single piece, this one lasting for
over 70 minutes. Heather Leigh Murray played with slide and
essentially applied her pedal steel technique to the bass. David
Keenan was also something of a revelation. His playing was extremely
brutal and heavy, and rather than keeping time as such he played
simple but shifting patterns. I thought he fell somewhere between the
unschooled drumming on the early electric albums and the more
considered free playing of Corsano and Nielson and at times reminded
me of Fushitsusha's Ikuro Takahashi. The Rep also played some slide.
As with all five Jandek sets, there was only one line of lyrics,
repeated at intervals. This time it was an insistent "Get in the
photo". I'm pretty sure there was some harmonica too (general tour
chaos plus lack of sleep and excess of alcohol has dulled my
recollection of details somewhat... but if you remember Larne Sunday,
you weren't really there!). Overall it was probably the most chaotic
and intense Jandek gig I'd seen. It was slightly reminiscent of what
we now know as Tribal Ether, mainly due to Heather's presence, but
much harsher and more jagged, and reminded me a lot of Mars and
Fushitsusha. Towards the end of the set, you could see lorries rolling
onto the ferry through the mock-porthole windows at the end of the
room. One inebriated middle-aged local made it through most of the
set, at one point staggering around and shouting for Whiskey in the
Jar. Unfortunately he couldn't be heard above the PA, so his request
wasn't met.

Bangor is a pleasant and picturesque seaside town, and The Black Boat
hosts a younger clientele than the Larne venue, and had a more relaxed
atmosphere. Again, the venue was an upstairs function room, this time
with a stage. The seating was on a raised platform with a railing
around it. Agitated Radio Pilot opened, with myself on bass. It was
nerve-wracking given who was listening but we managed to get through
it ok. Christina's set was a bit more structured and dynamic than that
in Larne, with a little more vocals. The Jandek set was very loud,
starting off slow, bleak and very doomy, reminding me a little of
Khanate. David's drumming was particularly violent, so much so that
the hi-hat eventually fell apart. The soundman was dissuaded from his
attempts to put it back together, and David placed the top half on the
snare and continued playing. The guitar sounded a bit tinny and
shrill, and the bass dominated the sound, starting off with throbbing
pulses and moving on to slide. This time the line was "I like shoes
more than men" (!). I think this was the shortest of the evening sets,
lasting around an hour.

Next was the HMV instore. The band were set up by the locked back door
of the shop and cordoned off, partially with a wall of Guitar Hero
boxes. The "get closer to Jandek" posters were particularly amusing,
as was hearing I Passed By the Building being played like a hit single
over the sound system before and after the set. The music itself was
much more understated, beautiful and psychedelic than any of the night
time gigs, befitting the time of day and location, and lasted about
half an hour. I originally though the lyric was either "Art is
everything" of "Our love is everything" but I was later told by
someone with a better view that it was "I want everything" (or maybe
"I wanted everything"?) - a succinct commentary on the perils of
materialism in this very temple of capitalism, no doubt! This is one
I'd listen to a lot if it was released. Onlookers consisted of a few
familiar faces from the other gigs as well as a few curious music
nerds, and at one point a couple of young children stood right at the
barrier, intrigued by the strange man in the hat and his strange
music. There were also a succession of passers-by peering in the
window as the band played. Given what a crazy idea this appearance
seemed, it worked amazingly well. And when you think of it, the
average person who might pop in to HMV on their lunch break would
probably be no more nonplussed by Jandek than most obscure /
underground racket makers, and there was no Rite of Spring type riot.

That night's show was in the Black Box, quite a large hall with a
fairly big stage and (finally!) a decent choice of ales at the bar,
and the turnout was the best of the tour at around forty payers.
Christina's set was bluesier and more harrowing than the previous two.
The Jandek set started with martial drums and more pulsing bass (and
less slide tonight), and the most distorted guitar tone I've heard
from Jandek. As you already know from that hilariously pompous review,
the lyric was "Last exit to Belfast". The drumming was more repetitive
and rhythmic than before. The players seemed to be locked into their
own grooves which would flow in and out of sync with each other. There
was a nice shift from 4/4 to 3/4 and back at one point. At about the
halfway point of the set, the music became spare and disjointed, with
lots of angular call-and-response between the players, with everyone
mostly landing on different beats. It had quite a tense feel because
for a while the music seemed about to come to an abrupt end but
someone would always answer the last phrase. However it got going
again, but and it did end definitively and satisfyingly, with a full
stop that neatly recalled the jerky mid-section.

The venue in Derry was Sandino's, with the stage at the end of a long
upstairs room full of kitsch furniture and posters for foreign movies
that nobody I spoke to had heard of. There was actually a large
ballroom and stage behind the area that was used but it would have
been excessive in this case. Christina really went for it vocally this
time, and her set seemed like the culmination of the gradual
development over her performances. There was some electrical hum in
the PA that actually worked quite atmospherically with her guitar.

The Jandek trio were seated for this one. They started off tentatively
but within a couple of minutes, got into something really solid and it
remained so for the rest of the set. The lyric was "I'm afraid I don't
know, I'm useless", which sounded to me like a snippet of overheard
Irish self-deprecation, taken as a confession of worthlessness. It was
sung a lot more than any of the other lyrics, and to greater effect,
the phrase deconstructed and mulled over in a way that justified the
one-line approach. David's drumming even occasionally strayed into
fairly straightforward time-keeping. I think I actually heard him
improve and become more assured as a drummer over the course of the
tour! The guitar was distorted, with a lot of slide used. For me it
was the most successful set after the instore, I found it highly
satisfying and could have easily listened to another hour or so of it.

There was a very minor scuffle at the back of the room in the latter
half of the set, when a drunken young idiot who continued to talk
loudly and continuously after being asked to refrain from doing so was
pushed off his stool. It might seem drastic but he was really asking
for it, and his assailant did something most of us must have
fantasized about in similar situations, and the loud guy was
eventually thrown out. The two were brought together to shake hands
later, and though the fellow who did the pushing apologized profusely,
the loud guy continued being an obnoxious dick and had to be ejected
yet again. This is what happens when you leave the galleries and play
in the pubs! Luckily none of this was noticeable to the performers at
the time.

Taken together, the five Jandek sets were cut from the same cloth, as
if making up a vast five-hour cycle. This rhythm section took a more
dominant role than usual leading to what must be the wildest and most
brutal Jandek music to date. It was really something to see five
Jandek sets (and four Christina Carter sets) in four days. The idea of
this tour may have seemed crazy, and it was never going to make
financial sense, but the promoters, James Ryder and James Clarke
(along with Iain Gray and soundmen for all but Derry, Bernard and
Andy), managed to make the seemingly impossible (or at least the
highly improbable) a reality, and it felt like an heroic venture,
bringing the music to the people, whether they wanted it or not!

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