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Music Production: Jandek Night
11/05/2005 Jandek Night: at Kiva Han

Announcement
Any Jandek fans near Pittsburgh are encouraged to start polishing up one to three songs for the third annual Open Mic Jandek Cover Night. Anyone can show up and play, but you have to cover a Jandek tune. Let's face it--there's enough in the oeuvre that you can surely cover something.

When: Jandek Day (Saturday, 11/5/05), 8PM-whenever (we'll likely be over by 10:30, so you can still get to Ubu at the Regent)
Where: Kiva Han coffee house, at Forbes and Craig (by the Carnegie Museum), Pittsburgh, PA 15213.
Who: mainly you, I hope, though I'll be doing some covers myself.
How much: Free, but buy something to show your support for this fine independent business.

There'll be a small PA (two small amps, but it's all we need), and I'll have microphones and a place to plug in an instrument. The space is way too small to accommodate a full band, so solo acts are best, though in a pinch we can handle a duo. I'll record the whole evening, and later we can get you CDs. I'll also have a Web browser open to Seth Tisue's fine Jandek site's lyrics page, so you don't have to worry about memorizing. So come on by and do a tune or two in tribute to Houston's International Man of Mystery.

Kiva Han, Forbes Avenue & Craig Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15213. 8PM. All ages, FREE. Anyone can come and perform, but you have to cover a Jandek tune. Map here: Map


Report
Well this was quite the glorious evening--"another victory," as Mr. Funky likes to say. The evening didn't start so well, though, with my having to circle around quite a few times before finding a parking space. Apparently there was some big to-do in Oakland, but I was oblivious to it. The thought did cross my mind, though, that Jandek Night might be overrun with people who expected Jandek to be there, and who would be bitterly disappointed and angry that I hadn't arranged it. Luckily, the most likely scenario was the right one, and we were largely ignored.

After I actually parked and got into Kiva Han, I saw that Unfinished Symphonies was in the house (at least his keyboard was), so that was a good sign. As for others, no one yet, and it was about 10 minutes to show time. Still, that was ok, as I hadn't set anything up yet. I was carrying a somewhat heavier rig than usual, with both the now-resurrected EHX pre and the backup DMP3 for vocals, two mics, small mic stand, and Line6 DL4 in addition to the usual. And that extra Pignose amp as the other half of the PA. Quite a load.

I set up the pseudo-PA and the other gear while we waited for audience and other performers, and people did indeed filter in--J-night regular Justin, Bob from the Gothees, one young gentleman with whom I've been working on some drone/doom metal, and a student from Carlow and a friend of hers. While she didn't know anything about Jandek's work, she's in an experimental/electronic music class, and attended this event as research for a paper. It seems that this was on the list of approved events compiled by the professor, which surprised me. It was almost like a mark of legitimacy for this humble guerilla event. (It'd be interesting to read the resulting paper. Or maybe it would be full of brutal truths.)

I was hoping that J-night regular John Eastridge would appear, but it was not to be. On the other hand, we did get Weird Paul and My Boyfriend the Pilot, who had promised to perform something. We'd have at least three mini-sets, possibly four, so off we went.

Rob started his set with a Jandekian keyboard version of the Beatles "Birthday"--with slow drum machine rhumba, on the assumption that J-Day was Jandek's birthday. (I've heard from some people that it's October 26 or 27, but seriously, it might as well be J-Day for all we know.) Very nice. He followed this up with a straight, upbeat pop version (with a bit of a Burt Bacharach twist) of "No Slow Ones" (Telegraph Melts), and he finished with a solid bluesy B3 version of the new Khartoum's "New Dimension." His vocal delivery on this was just perfect (including the audible smile on "I'm the vulnerable kind"), and the keyboard was glorious. Seriously, listening back to these versions, particularly the last one, Rob's genius just leaps out of the speakers. Very well done. Keep an eye out for any Unfinished Symphonies gigs, and maybe he'll slip one of these Janky tunes into the set if you ask nicely.

Paul and Min were up next, and needed a bit of a tech hookup--they wanted to use an additional backing track on Min's PowerBook, but I didn't have any additional 1/8" stereo to 1/4" cables. No problem--I could transfer it to mine and drop it into Live through a computer-to-computer 802.11b network...right? Oddly, I couldn't set it up to use hers as the host, but I could set up mine as the host and transfer that way. It may have killed the momentum a bit, but then that's the nature of J-night--if anyone can come and play, then I just have to deal with the resultant curveballs. It was well worth it, though, as they did a hilariously theatrical "Painted My Teeth." Paul hammered on an appropriately tuned $8 electric (powerful pickups--I had to bypass the preamp), which had a paper plate attached to the headstock, to which was affixed a photo of the young Jandek from Follow Your Footsteps, while Min held a La Joconde/Medusa painting in front of her face. Paul delivered his lines with a beautifully unhinged enthusiasm, and they dropped in some beautiful ad-libs ("Charles Schulz painted his teeth!" "What the fuck? You stupid dumbass!"), all to a powernoise-processed loop of Jandek and John on drums. At the appropriate moment, Paul pulled out a marker and, yes, painted the teeth of the Jandek photo. Nice.

We talked Min into doing a solo piece, but since she had the backing track in Garage Band, we just mic'd her PowerBook, which had to be kept low or else it was feedback city. Still, even against these obstacles, she turned in a fine, stirring pop/disco/symphonic hair metal version of "Wild Strawberries" (Six and Six).

I did my set on uke this year again, starting with "Janitor's Dead" (very similar to "Niagara Blues"), and again used the Line6 to hold down the rhythm playing while I soloed. I bungled some things, like closing the loop a fraction of a beat too soon, and having a bit of a hesitating vocal delivery. Fairly early in, my hands were pretty sweaty, which undermined my sense of oneness with the music a bit. The solo wasn't bad, though, and I definitely got applause playing part of the solo with my teeth and again when I got up and held the uke up to the Pignose speaker for feedback. After this point, my vocal was stronger, too, so perhaps I just needed more rehearsal or something. Afterwards, Rob observed that he was afraid I was going to smash the uke, what with the Hendrixian teeth-playing and feedback. I had, however, two more songs to do, so that wouldn't have been too cool; also I don't believe in smashing instruments. Or, rather, I believe the practice exists, but I don't agree with it. I'm fairly sentimental about my instruments, actually.

Next up I did "Open E," which was similar to last year's "Carnival Queen," but my voice was in better shape this year, and my uke playing on this, while simple and minimal, was effectively wandering, alienated and "other"--not quite Byron Coley's famous "notes get picked like scabs," but it worked. It's a good song.

"Only Lover" is a favorite for me, but I think I didn't do it justice this year. I'd sped it up a bit too much, and my vocal isn't quite hallucinatory enough, plus there are a lot of wrong notes in the end section. Oops. Still, I had some moments--the sostenuto on the "so" of the "cantaloupes" line, and a few other places when I slowed time a bit. Overall, though, too perky, or competent, and not enough invested in the fever dream of the lyrics.

And we were done by 9:30 or so--another sucessful gig. Quite the victory, in fact. Glorious, even.

I played some actual Jandek for the room while I packed up the gear. It turned out that most of us were heading to the Regent for the live Pere Ubu film soundtrack, though I dropped the gear at home first before going over there with Rob. That was a good performance, too, although I don't know if it hit the peaks of Jandek night. One thing's for sure--if someone had dropped a bomb on the Regent, Pittsburgh's cutting-edge cultural live would have been wiped out...though as Rob observed, Pittsburgh wouldn't have noticed.

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