[Jandek] Jandek in Brooklyn

Jeff Gomez jeff.gomez at me.com
Mon Sep 7 06:50:56 PDT 2009

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Saw the show last night in Brooklyn, and thought I’d send a few notes.  
First of all, it was a pretty nice day on Sunday here in New York;  
started out sunny and gorgeous, but became more cloudy and cool as  
they day progressed. My wife and I headed to Brooklyn a bit early so  
we could get dinner before the show. Issue Project Room is situated in  
an industrial wasteland between Cobble Hill and Park Slope. We parked  
more near Park Slope, and were walking down Fifth Avenue when we  
actually passed by The Representative on the sidewalk. I noticed him  
at the last second, and was pretty freaked out. He didn’t see my  
reaction, but one of the people he was with did, and sort of grinned.  
After he passed us, and walked a few more feet, I got out my camera  
and took a picture (attached). He was wearing the usual black outfit,  
except with a purple shirt. He was also clutching a black leather  
valise. He seemed to be in animated conversation with his hosts; they  
were telling him about the neighborhood. I never really expected to  
run into The Rep on the street, so this was a treat.

We later showed up at Issue Project Room at about 7:30PM. I took a  
picture of the door outside, which had on it two posters for the show  
(attached). I had seen on the Issue Project Room website that the  
Jandek show would be played “in the courtyard.” Uh, what this meant  
was that Jandek was playing, more or less, in a parking lot in the  
back, with the band set up sort of on a loading dock overlooking the  
parking lot. The gear was already set up and, in addition to the small  
amps for the instruments, there were two decent-sized PA monitors on  
stands. There were a couple dozen plastic folding chairs arrayed  
around the parking lot, along with a table toward the back selling  
drinks. My wife and I scored center seats with a great view of the  
loading dock plus two orange pylons (pic attached).

People started coming in and taking seats and, soon enough, The Rep  
came in carrying his guitar case and the valise he’d had on the street  
before. He was wearing the same clothes (along with the hat) but he’d  
since changed into a black shirt. He walked to the back of the space,  
spoke to someone, and then disappeared for a bit. He later reemerged,  
and was standing at the back of the venue, to the left of the table  
selling the drinks. He was easy to spot since he was wearing his hat  
and, as the sun continued to go down, his silhouette made for a  
striking profile. I kept glancing back and every time I did The Rep  
was still there, sometimes chatting with people, sometimes standing  
there alone. I went to get a plastic cup of wine and, as I passed by  
The Rep, I could see that he was signing a copy of Six and Six for a  
guy. Since The Rep was open to giving autographs, I didn’t think he’d  
mind me saying hello.

The guy who got the autograph left, so I approached The Rep. This was  
kind of weird since I know very well The Rep’s reputation. He was a  
crazy recluse, right? But then again, he was playing a concert, and  
was hardly being a diva and hiding in his dressing room. So I figured  
I’d give it a shot, being as respectful as possible. I said, “I’m  
really looking forward to the show.” He stared at me a bit blankly. I  
was a bit taller than him, so he must be about 5’10. His skin was  
pretty pale, and it looked like he had lots of freckles. I said, “I  
have most of your CDs, and I sent you an old Penguin book a couple of  
months ago.” At this he brightened up and said, “Oh, yeah, thanks.”  
The voice was so unmistakably THAT VOICE. It was pretty cool. I then  
offered my hand for a shake, and he willingly shook it. I then said  
“Thanks again” and walked away. His hand felt normal; kind of soft;  
more of  a stockbroker’s hand than that of a machinist (I know during  
the Trubee interview in ’85 he was a machinist, but since then I think  
his dayjob has been more white collar than blue).

I then went back to my seat and waited for the show to begin. The Nate  
Wooley Trio opened and played two pieces; one was pretty long at about  
twenty minutes; the other was shorter at about ten minutes. They were  
pretty good; this guy playing the violin did this crazy thing with his  
mouth, sort of beating the microphone against it while he made strange  
sounds. (I hope he has a good dentist).

The Rep came out, along with the other band members, around 9:15.  
There was about ten minutes of checking their instruments after which  
The Rep approached the microphone and started to gently blow a  
harmonica. This was the beginning of the concert, though it didn’t  
seem that anyone really knew that this was the case; the music playing  
between bands was still playing, though it slowly petered out as The  
Rep continued to play the harmonica. The other instruments started to  
then join The Rep’s harmonica. I must say, this was the most tuneful  
I’ve ever heard The Rep play a harmonica; on most Jandek records the  
harmonica screeches to the point where the hairs on my neck stand up,  
but for this concert he was playing it really beautifully. He then  
started to sing a bit; just a few lines, really, about killing a man  
and having to go to Sacramento (a city in California). I couldn’t see  
that he had a music stand in front of him, so I guess he was reciting  
this from memory (I’ve heard that in other concerts he puts his lyrics  
in front of him on a stand). This song lasted about 6-7 minutes, and  
was really nice.

The Rep then strapped on a black guitar, and the band started the next  
song. This song was pretty abstract and noisy; The Rep didn’t sing;  
instead, everyone was doing their own thing. After about 7-8 minutes,  
the power blew on stage. All at once, the sound just stopped. The Rep  
just sort of grinned and, in a few minutes, power was restored. The  
band started into another song, this one sort of the same as the last,  
except about four minutes the power went out again. The Rep grinned  
again as the organizers grabbed power strips and tried to figure out  
what was going on. When they got the power up and running, the band  
plowed on with more abstract noise songs; the rest of the set  
consisted of these noisy jams. The Rep never again sang, or even  
approached the microphone. (I recorded one of these songs and will try  
to upload it to Youtube; I’ll send a link when it’s live).

The crowd clapped after each song/jam, but more than a few people left  
during the show. I don’t know if this is because they didn’t know what  
they were getting into, and thought it was way too noisy, or because  
it was colder than anyone expected (I got pretty chilly in that  
parking lot as the night went on). At about 11PM, after one of the  
songs, The Rep looked at the other musicians, kind of grinned, and  
took off his guitar. That meant the show was over. Everyone clapped  
and started to make for the exits. On the way out I snapped two more  
pics of him (attached), where you can see him all dressed in black. In  
the end, it was an okay show; the music was more free-form than any of  
his regular CDs; if anything, parts of it sounded like the freakout of  
“The Electric End” from his LP The Beginning. I don’t know if, because  
of the electricity problems, the set will be released or if it was  
even recorded (I saw a small video camera on a staircase to the left,  
but didn’t spot any other cameras). But most of all, it was just fun  
to see The Rep in the flesh. And the fact that he was hanging around  
before the show, and that I got a chance to meet him, shows that he’s  
hardly the Kurtz of music. Instead, I think he’s a more-or-less normal  
guy who makes not-so-normal music.

Anyway, sorry this is so long; cheers.


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