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Ok, here it is, he's playing live in Austin, TX in his first U.S. appearance EVER!
This sunday Sunday SUNDAY! Aug. 28th, 2005 at Scottish Rite Theatre, JANDEK!
I'm sorry that I'm posting this news so late, don't be mad. I just heard about it fom Annie Lin and besides, the Austin and New York shows sold out in minutes anyway. If you're still mad then maybe you would be willing to travel to NOLA and see him there. One quick note that I mentioned earlier this year in Wayside Drive's feature on HoustonBands.Net is that the Houston band was picked for a song the second tribute album from Summersteps called Down In A Mirror. It's cool, you should check them out.
Seth Tisue reports that Jandek will be playing live in three U.S. cities, Austin, New Orleans and New York City. The venue's site states that "The show in Austin is sold out. Tickets are still available for the New Orleans show and can be purchased via the link below. Tickets for the NY performance are sold out." See what 27 years of steadily releasing product will get you? Sold out shows in Austin and New York.
Tisue, the webmaster of A Guide To Jandek, got his information from The Wire, a UK music magazine. "All of the shows were arranged by Barry Esson, in association with promoters and venues in the individual cities. According to a news item in The Wire, 'All three dates will feature the Corwood Industries representative backed by a pick up group put together from local musicians.'"
This is not the first live show by Jandek. He played live in Europe in May of 2004 accompanied by Richard Youngs on bass and Alex Neilson on drum kit. Jandek played an electric guitar while wearing all black including a black wide brimmed hat. This show has been released by Corwood as Glasgow Sunday. The trio then played a two more times in the U.K. during 2005 with Jandek playing either guitar (Gateshead, May 22) or piano (Glasgow May 23).
I had known about the earlier gigs but failed to report it here because I was going to review the DVD and then drop the bomb at the end. Well, between scratching my dvd and revamping the web site I never got around to either. So with the news of actual U.S. shows I will begin a Jandek Watch and try to report on the latest sightings.
Incredibly, the live shows have been all new music. Not new songs of his latest album mind you, but new songs that no one has ever heard before and might never hear again, because although there are live recordings of the May 2004 Instal gig, recording and photo equipment will not be allowed at the U.S. shows. This has also lead to Jandek fans taking the habit of jamband fans' writing down setlists one step further by writing down his actual lyrics. You see, lyrics have never been included in the albums either. Just a photo on the front and a track listing on the back along with the Corwood Industries PO Box in downtown Houston.
With an album count now up to 42 due to a recent flood of releases, it has been speculated that Jandek has either quit his day job and/or just gone through a serious illness. The former theory is supported by the latest onlsaught of recordings and his willingness to play live, even traveling to Europe to do so. While the latter theory is seemingly only supported by his gaunt appearance, both theories are supported by his new lyrics from the live songs and latest releases.
I tend to favor the thought that he has either quit his day job or retired due to the fact that he is reportedly 60 years old but he has released a record 7 albums between 2004 and 2005. Then again, most of his songs seem to be one take, stream of consciousness jams, so how long could they take to write and record? Then there is the speculation by some people that these recordings are from only a few sessions recorded at different times and released piece-meal over the years in different arcs and themes with the newest being religion.
I am further encouraged to believe that Jandek may not be pulling our proverbial legs by his willingness to play live and that fact that the live songs are just as rambling and bleak as the ones he released 27 years ago. There are only more conflicts when one raises the point that he brings lyric sheets to shows. Are these new lyrics he just penned or old ones revived to be recycled into live jam sessions? Who knows? Only the Corwood Industries representative knows for sure, and he's still not talking.
I haven't bought any Jandek cds yet, but I think I'm going to get Glasgow Sunday soon. Probably just to be able say I own a Jandek recording. Because I still don't understand why people like what Jandek does beyond the curiosity factor. But I can respect that they do like it, and I think it's great that he has figured out how to use the mystery of Jandek and to build a body of work over so many years.
Again, it's all just speculation because the guy still does no press. And on that point I say good for him. In this day of media saturation and focus on celebrity, now more than ever we should be focusing on the art and not the artist. Because Jandek is art. If nothing else, his entire career is an art project by someone only vaguely known as "the Corwood Industries Representative."
And to that I say: Rock on Jandek, however you like.
Producing at least an album a year since 1981, after his first in 1978, the recluse known only as Jandek has been making records for the equally obscure Corwood Industries label that is run out of Post Office Box 15375 in Houston, Texas. He's never played live, never been interviewed, and only one person has ever claimed to have met him. He is the most alternative you can get right up to the alternative of no music at all imagined by Todd Snider in the song Talking Seattle Grunge Rock Blues.
The music ranges from out of tune plonking of acoustic guitars with desolate, rambling, vocals, as on his first release, to electric dissonance with clanging drums and screaming vocals. In the eighties a couple guest musicians and vocalists started appearing and by 1992 Jandek was almost a band with actual musical styles seeping through. Then in 1993 it was back to just Jandek, his guitar and more of what Irwin Chusid classifies as Songs In The Key Of Z.
Three voice-only recordings between 2000 and 2001 are said to be sing-songy stream of conciousness rants, removing the music and approaching the alternative to alternative music. On his 2002 release I Threw You Away, Jandek picked up the acoustic guitar again.
His latest release is The Gone Wait and his earlier works have been reissued on CD by Corwood. Jandek has probably sent more free copies of his material to college radio stations and the press than he has ever sold. You can order these recordings directly through mail order via the Corwood Industries Unofficial Homepage or from online retailers such as Flipped Out Records, Forced Exposure, Weekend Records and Soap, and Aquarius Records.
But be warned, if you ever had any problem with any song Beck ever did, don't go near this stuff! You couldn't convince me Beck was not aware of Jandek in his formative years. But Beck can tune his guitar and actually sing beautifully when he wants to. Jandek can't. Or won't. This music has been called Outsider music, like a primitive who has been outside the influence of mainstrean music or even life. It's that at least.
Thanks to the digital age, I have learned about Jandek and heard some of these recordings. Although not unlistenable, they tend to sound to me like someone just had a little extra cash to spend at the Houston Records manufacturing plant where Corwood Industries had it's vinyl pressed. (It was once theorized he actually had a job there.)
I haven't listened to the any of the voice-only offerings, and I don't really want to, but being an amateur guitarist and do-it-yourself recording artist, I can relate to the electric noodling and thrashing, and the acoustic songs have a strange what the hell is this and what is he going to do next? appeal.
The trick is to grasp the flat out pureness that can be found from someone who either never tried, or just never bothered, to tune their guitar and simply recorded what they feel and music they hear in their head. Problem is, Jandek feels pretty bad and I don't think I want to know what's in his head.
There is one little thing that bothers me, and this is: How underground can you be when you have a proclamation by the City Of Houston and Mayor Lee P. Brown that Nov. 22, 2002 is Jandek Day? It's true! and he must still be underground because even I, who tried to keep a sharp ear to the Houston music scene for the last few years, missed it completely.
I guess this guy is for real. Because even if his catalog of work is a 25 year put-on, he is at least the the precursor if not the epitome of what Robert Christgeau describes as "boutique capitalism" in todays music world. A world where anyone with enough money can cut an album and put it up for sale on the internet. The fact that they are songs makes them art but the fact that people have actually covered his songs and that there is a tribute cd from Summersteps makes them at least accessible.
It is just so cool to know that the most underground guy outside the music biz started in Houston, stayed in Houston, and now gets a movie made about him.
Except that he's not in it. Chad Freidrichs and Paul Fehler conducted 55 hours of interviews with 24 people that have known and theorized for 25 years about the enigma that is Jandek in their film Jandek On Corwood. But no Jandek. That's so underground. I can't wait to see it.
Learn more from Seth Tisue's excellent Guide to Jandek. Without it this article would not have been possible.
Update 11/1/04 Jandek On Corwood DVD now available! Click Here!
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