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10/30/2003 My Fifteen Minutes: Jandek Night

Wow--a twofer for J-night! From the Pittsburgh City Paper:

Riffs
10/30/2003
Jandek's Myth Direction

Writer: JUSTIN HOPPER

Too often the veil of indie anonymity is simply a tool to achieve ends similar to those of rock-star bravado. Too often in the modern music world, cries of "no sellout" are simply the public face of private bathroom-mirror microphone posing. But to the select few who, for better or for worse, really do abhor the publicity-driven music biz -- major label or indie -- there stands one towering example of the lengths to which one can go to avoid it.

Since 1978, when his debut Ready for the House appeared, the Houston-based musician known as Jandek has released more than 30 albums, performed no live shows, done no publicity photos and given one interview -- maybe. The interviewer, who tracked her subject down and approached him unannounced, and whom Jandek told that he never wanted anyone to contact him about Jandek's music again, was never able to absolutely confirm that the man she interviewed really was Jandek. While he's long been a name-droppable indie icon, his music, perhaps best described by Douglas Wolk as having "no choruses, no hooks, no melodies, no rhythms, no internal progression, nothing but the inexorable Chinese-water-torture plod of Samuel Beckett's The Unnameable," is absolutely unmarketable to say the very least.

In other words, to musicians with not just a taste but a need for myth and mystery, such as Pittsburgh's Maurice Rickard (a.k.a. Stoic Sex Pro), Jandek is manna from heaven. (Pittsburgh has a long-standing history with Jandek: WRCT-FM was one of a handful of stations to which the mysterious musician's Corwood Industries label used to send free copies of each Jandek LP.) Upon discovering that the mayor of Houston had named Nov. 5 to be "Jandek Day," Rickard began to formulate something of a tribute to the unattributable -- an evening of Jandek's music as performed by local musicians, done in the low-tech, almost dismally barren form of Jandek's own recordings. Participants such as Rickard, accordionist Steve Pellegrino, John Eastridge and Unfinished Symphonies (local weirdo Mr. Funky's one-man band) will perform Jandek songs and invite all comers to do the same. (Don't know the words to your Jandek fave? Rickard will have Internet access on hand to look 'em up.)

Is Jandek a brilliant and truly unique artist, a reclusive mental case, or an Ern Malley-sized hoax perpetuated by some enclave of Texan pranksters? More importantly, does it matter? If the music holds up, it certainly doesn't. As Rickard says of his hopes for the tribute event, "I suspect that a fun, intensely 'other' experience will be had by all."

The Jandek Night open mike takes place at 7 p.m. Wed., Nov. 5, at Kiva Han at Forbes and Meyran avenues, Oakland. 412-682-5354.

And from Pulp:
JANDEK NIGHT
KIVA HAN
Wednesday, November 5

My first encounter with enigmatic, DIY musician Jandek occurred while digging through a stack of albums at a yard sale in North Georgia 10 years ago. The picture on the cover appeared to concern itself with a drum set. Yet, tinted in a haunted cerulean, it seemed like one of those photos you'd get back from the lab for free. The back was white with the name of the performer and album, plus a list of songs and a Houston, Texas address. Simply carrying this record home gave me an odd sensation, like perhaps I'd stumbled upon someone's home movie and wasn't supposed to be watching. Or listening. While it was fairly clear that these people -- or was it all one person? -- couldn't really play, they/he captured the "white blues" perfectly, moaning about hospital visits, isolation and somebody named Sadie over torturously inept guitar and drums. It was apparent this Jandek, whoever he was, had problems. Trawls through friends' collections uncovered more of his records, but who was he? After 36 albums and 25 years, nobody seems to know. There are articles, Web sites and even a fan club. At least 100 people love him. None of which quite explains the fact that, last year, Houston's mayor declared November 5 "Jandek Day." And thanks to the instant info found floating in the electronic mist, other towns have planned celebrations of this ragged, invisible troubadour on the same day. Pittsburgh's Maurice Rickard is setting up "Jandek Night" at the Kiva Han on Forbes and Meyran. Accordionist/performance artist Steve Pellegrino also appears to be involved, but anyone is welcome. The rules: Bring an acoustic or low-watt amplified instrument and play. A Jandek cover, that is.

-- BRUCE MILLER

Free. 7 p.m. Oakland. 412.682.5354

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