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Music Production: Jandek Night
11/05/2003 Jandek Night: at Kiva Han

Announcement
Last year, the mayor of Houston, TX declared November 5 to be Jandek Day, in honor of Houston's original outsider music Man of Mystery. For Pittsburgh's observance of Jandek Day, I've arranged for a Jandek Open Mic Night at Kiva Han coffeehouse, at Forbes & Meyran, in Oakland. (Note that it's Forbes & Meyran, the shop down by the Upstage and Laga.)

Anyone can come and play...as long as you're covering an actual Jandek tune. Our coalition of the Janky currently consists of myself, fellow Jandek list member John Eastridge (doing "Your Condition" and "So Fly, Max" from the early still-learning-to-tune Lightnin' Hopkins/Glenn Branca-esque Later On), Unfinished Symphonies on fake plastic organ (we have a killer, haunted-fugitive version of "Message to the Clerk"!), and accordionist/performance artist Steve Pellegrino. (I've suggested that Steve do "Harmonica," a kind of "Silent Night" in which Jandek screams through the eponymous instrument.)

I'll have some low-power amplification there, but the event will mostly be acoustic. I'll probably have the laptop available for people who need to check lyrics. If you're in the area, come on out, and have a couple tunes in mind. Hey, you can even rehearse ahead of time. Or just watch the show--I'd be surprised if there's a long line of Jandek worshippers around the block.

Wednesday, November 5, 7PM, all ages, free. Kiva Han Coffeehouse at Forbes & Meyran, Oakland, Pittsburgh, PA.

Report
Well, no long line of Jandek worshippers, but there something really special went down this evening. In a way, it started the previous weekend, on November 1, when Mr. Funky had me over to do a Sonic Roulette--his occasional improvisations-with-rules event. Despite the professed interest of a couple folks, I was the only one to show at the Funkies' place (late, as I'd had a number of things going on). But that was OK, because after a few improvs of uke-through-the-PowerBook, we fell into an amazingly disturbing version of Jandek's classic "Message to the Clerk." We also did a number of other interesting things, including a compelling dub tune (uke with short delay, high feedback). But it put us in the frame of mind for Wednesday.

Over the next few days, I developed some nail separation on my left middle finger, so playing was painful, until I'd warmed up. But come Wednesday I figured I'd be able to function. Mr. Funky came by during the late afternoon to drop off his mic, stand, small amp, and some effects we'd use on the vocals. Soon after, I loaded up the car, headed down to Whole Foods for a quick dinner from the salad bar, and cruised down to Kiva Han. I actually scored the best possible parking space, in the nearby florist's loading zone. While I was loading in, Mr. Funky came by, and we got the transport taken care of. Set-up took a while longer, as we had to rearrange some furniture as well as get the gear organized. But we did. It had been raining all day, but had tapered off by this point, for some streets wet and shiny with Jandek-appropriate atmosphere.

Sadly, some of the patrons who were hanging when I entered moved on; I guess they didn't want to get educated about Janky. That's ok. Soon we were joined by CMU student John Eastridge, Steve Pellegrino, and Justin (another local Jandek fan I'd hoped to get performing, but he and his girlfriend came to listen). SCLF drummer Ryan Sigesmumnd also came by, so the vibes were good, and we talked a couple customers into sticking around for the festivities. While we waited for the right moment to start, I put some actual Jandek on in iTunes and played it through the little amp.

I offered that we should perform chronologically by Jandek tune, a regimen we didn't actually stick to, but which worked just fine for figuring out the running order. This put John up first, and I plugged him in to the Kalamazoo amp, along with Funky echo box on the vocal. From his very first notes of "So Fly, Max," we could tell that it was right--he was channeling the Man. Rob, Steve, and I were thrilled, so thrilled that we chuckled with delight. (I hope John didn't think that we were laughing derisively, but that wasn't the case at all; it was actually from the beauty of the thing working out so well.) John did a gorgeous version of "Oh Jenny," as well. I'm deeply regretting not having recorded it.

Rob and I went up next, playing our organ and uke-through-the-PowerBook version of "Message to the Clerk." Very haunting, and I got a great feedback tone resonating off the uke's soundhole. Rob's vocal delivery on this one was perfect, really stretching it out. A true interpretation. He did an about-face for his version of "Time and Space," which got the groovy, rhythmic Unfinished Symphonies treatment. Steve Pellegrino next laid down a mighty version of "Harmonica" on accordion, managing to work in the theme from 2001, and to scream into the accordion, finishing the tune on his back.

This was a hard act to follow, but I was the last performer, so I had to. Over the previous days of rehearsal, I'd felt that I had a better handle on "When the Telephone Melts" as opposed to "Only Lover," so I thought I'd do "Lover" first and finish with the strong one. This also was in keeping with the chronological idea, so it was theoretically structurally justifiable. I took a minute to set the Girl delay on the PowerBook so that it was at least somewhat rhythmically related to the tempo, and, with an adjustment of the vocal mic and of the lyric sheet, off I went on "Only Lover."

For a tune that I felt I had no handle on--as well as my public debut as a singer and ukulele player--I got into the groove pretty quickly. The tune speeds up and slows down, gets denser and sparser, and in the quiet sections I sometimes dropped the uke out entirely and delivered them in an echoey a capella. It was in those moments that I could tell I was building an atmosphere; the place was utterly quiet, and I could feel people's attention having been drawn in. Regrettably, one of the walk-ins ordered a latte, so there's some frothing going on during the tune. (In an aside, I noted that one could hear the river to Madrid.) In a couple places, I manage a nice interaction with the uke delay, although in others I seem to be fighting it. Even the voice worked out, and the tune had that epic feel I was hoping for.

I struggled a bit with the changeover to "Telephone," as I had to tweak the guitar's tuning and we had to adjust the vocal mic volume. After a false start or so, I got into it, and while I had energy, I just don't think it was as good as the version I did for the Janky tribute a while back. Still, it went reasonably well, and people dug it. Justin in particular was appreciative of my effort to bring Jandek to the people (or vice versa), bought a couple CDRs, and expressed interest in seeing whatever it is that I usually do, whenever that next is. Ryan, his date (who unfortunately arrived too late for our proceedings), and Mr. & Mr$ Funky and I reconvened over at Kelly's for drinks, discussion, and debate. A fine evening, from the rehearsals right down to the weather. Feel the love.

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