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Music Production: Jandek Night
11/05/2004 Jandek Night: at Kiva Han

Announcement
A couple of years ago, the mayor of Houston, TX, declared November 5 to be Jandek Day, in honor of Jandek's long, if obscure, involvement in music. Last year, we decided to have a tribute on Jandek Day, an Open Mic Jandek Cover Night in which anyone could show up and play, but they had to cover a Jandek tune.

Last year, WRCT DJ John Eastridge turned in some heartbreakingly perfect covers of Later On-era Janky, while Unfinished Symphonies did a gorgeously twisted "Message to the Clerk" and "Time and Space," and accordionist/performance artist extraordinaire Steve Pellegrino did an accordion-flavored cover of "Harmonica." Your humble correspondent supplied a ukulele cover of "Only Lover" and a less-successful indie-rock "When the Telephone Melts." Various other stalwarts filled out the audience for what was a very, very special night. Our numbers were few, but they were all the right people.

For this year, I've made arrangements for the bigger room (Forbes & Craig Kiva Han) for Jandek Day, Friday, 11/5. The second annual Open Mic Jandek Cover Night will be happening. What you need to know: it's a small space. There will be a PA, but probably room for a full band. Drum kits are probably out. I'll have some low-volume amplification, and the all-important reverb for the vocals. I'll have lyrics available on the laptop if you need a refresher.

The first part of the evening will be at 8, with a non-Jandek performances from Kaba Kick, and we'll get rolling around 9:00. But do come out and show some support.

So make your plans now, study the Jandek back catalog, and drop me a line.

Forbes Avenue and Craig Street, Pittsburgh (Oakland--right near the Carnegie). After Kaba Kick, who start at 8. FREE. All ages.

Report
This one ended up being a victory, despite several bad initial portents. Originally (when I set this up at the October 2 show), I'd figured that we'd be back at the Forbes and Meyran store, but shortly after announcing this, Manny mentioned that he was doing a show at Forbes and Craig that night, so we should combine the two shows. At that point, it looked like his show would have a door chaarge to support a headliner from Sweden, but a few weeks later I learned that this person wouldn't be flying over, so we bumped the show down to free, and moved up our start time to 9 from the original 9:45.

I got there early, at 7, to scope things out. Manny wasn't there yet, so I brought the PA down (somewhat to the surprise of John, the owner, who didn't recall Manny doing a show this evening). I set up the PA for our needs, figuring that even if the first act had different needs, at least I'd be ready for a fast changeover. One of my decisions was to have everyone go through the DMP3 into the PowerBook, where I'd use Ableton Live to apply an appropriately Jandekian reverb, and record the set direct to hard disk, too. While I was arranging all this (and waiting), I started talking to some Kiva Han patrons who were curious about the show. I couldn't describe Kaba Kick, but I did talk at some length about Jandek and his Mystique, which proved to be a hook for them--they wanted to check it all out.

At 7:45 I looked at my watch, and with Manny (and Kaba Kick) not in the house yet, realized that a first act was for whatever reason extremely unlikely. And indeed, neither of them showed at any point, a mystery which remains unsolved. Maybe this is appropriate for a Jandek Night show. None of the people who had told me they'd be playing were there yet either, although I knew I could count on Unfinished Symphonies. I wasn't too worried, as I'd told the players that they'd be on at 9, so I just continued the conversation about Janky, checked email, got a coffee, etc.

As we got closer to 9, one Jandek fan who attended last year came; he wasn't playing, but at least with him and the regular customers, we had an audience. I called Rob (Unfinished Symphonies) on the cell phone, and it turned out that he was just across the street having a beer. He quickly came in, so we got started with his set of very pop, upbeat, audience-friendly versions of two recent Jandek tunes and the late-80s instrumental "Lavender." These were all very good, great examples of finding the song within the Jandek aesthetic, and in the case of the recent songs, were really entirely new music for Jandek's lyrics. Shortly after Rob started, CMU DJ John Eastridge showed up, and I felt even more confident about the evening. Between the three of us, we'd have enough songs to call it a full show.

Rob's set was very well received, and perhaps (as he mentioned later) a bit deceiving to the audience about Jandek's style. John's covers, on the other hand, were intensely faithful to the style and aesthetic--he's really channeling Jandek in his performances. Regrettably, we lost a few people during this set, although I suppose that's inevitable. Still, I was digging it, even though I jumped up several times to try to deal with the clipping that was going on--John's Strat has a lot of output.

I was up next, and did uke versions of "Niagara Blues" and "Only Lover", which went down well (with Rob commenting several times afterwards on how my uke prowess has increased since last year). Regrettably, I'd been dealing with a cold earlier in the week, and I wasn't in the best of voice. Still, I had some fun with "Niagara Blues," including popping the chords into my Line6 looper so that I could solo over them, although I played the loop only during the solo, preferring to keep it as real and as live as possible. It was nice to do the loop, though, as I came up with some nice Latin lines for the solo. (Thinking about it now, though, there's a geographical problem with that in this song. Ah, well.) Apart from the voice, there was another problem with a table of girls in the back corner who kept yammering away enthusiastically to each other, which didn't work at all with the spaces of "Only Lover," and I couldn't get as quiet as I liked. I also way overemphasized the "listen to me now, baby" line, but that's live performance for you. I also flubbed the chords in the last section a couple times, but Rob said that he thought it went over better than last year's. (For vocals, though, I prefer last year's.)

Even with that to struggle against, there was a warm vibe from the audience, so I did a third, unrehearsed tune, "Carnival Queen." This extremely introverted number was a lot of fun--I just cranked up the reverb tail, sang from the lyrics online, and improvised some sparse uke playing to match. By this point we'd gained and lost a couple audience members, and the girls had finally left. Happily, we also gained one gentleman whom I've seen at a lot of avant-garde events, and he requested encores, as he'd missed much of the evening so far. We aim to please, so we did--Rob did a joyous, extra-earthly "Time and Space," while John hit another few early classics. I contemplated doing "Janitor's Dead," which is similar to "Niagara Blues," but wasn't confident of being able to deliver the lyrics appropriately, so I instead opted for "Your Other Man," which is similar musically to "Only Lover." Not necessarily the best version of that ever, but it would do, and I didn't have to battle the yammerers vocally.

A fine time was had by all, except perhaps by the people we chased out. So Rob and our audient Justin and I repaired to Kelly's for a round, followed by a stop at the Cage for another and some further conversation, although the smoke set my throat's recovery back a few days. Another victory in the name of Jandek.

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