Wednesday, April 18, 2012

It's better that way.

Another post rescued from the obscurity of my drafts...unfinished, but better to put it out there than just delete.  We caught Jandek at the Flywheel in Easthampton, MA on October 1, 2011.

You May Not Get All The Answers You Want.
It's Better That Way.

The tail end of a rainstorm was lingering over Amherst when we arrived.  It was after noon on a Saturday, overcast and wet but not really raining anymore, so there was a bustle about town as people were starting to emerge and run errands.  As Sarah and I meandered around the region we noticed a buzz.  This is a small enough metropolis that nothing goes unreported on the gossip line and being out on the town is all it takes to be in the loop.  Over the last few days, we heard, The Representative From Corwood Industries1 was seen at Whole Foods, eating in Amherst, and as we made our rounds he was currently in the middle of an extended rehearsal. Every few minutes, it seemed, we overheard yet another update as someone onsite made a call out to the world, or ventured in with word from the rehearsal. 

During the week leading up to Jandek's performance at the Flywheel, we'd theorized that we could be in store for anything.  Considering Western Mass has a population of local musicians into noise, experimental, and avante garde, it would most likely be some sort of loose jam.  Massive weirdness; formless songs.  We thought we'd figured out the mystery.

The band made their way to the stage at the exact time the show was advertised to start.  Each musician walked to their instruments, quietly fiddling with their gear for a moment before beginning as a unit.  Instantly, our expectations were shattered.  Jandek, it seems, was a more fluid and interesting project than we'd given credit. The Man in Black pounded away on a fretless bass.  He was accompanied by a pedal steel guitar, banjo, violin, and, on a few songs, female vocal counterpart.  Tonight's performance was good ol' country music.

Of course, Jandek playing country is still Jandek.  For two hours, the band played a set of structured, memorable songs full of distinct melodies, yet it was absolutely within the Jandek canon.  The sound was eerie, like a warbly, well-worn cassette of country tunes.  TRFCI's bangs on the bass provided a humming buzz. The band seemed to speed up or slow down unpredictably at times; displayed a surprising tenderness, especially when joined by Betsy Nichols on vocals; even showed a touch of humor, as when TRFCI (already wearing a Stetson) put on his glasses and sang, "A cowboy doesn't wear glasses"2.

The set was mesmerizing and the mysterious loner at the center let on, just a bit, that after 30 years and twice as many albums, he may not provide any answers, but his vision is as robust and fascinating as ever.  Since emerging from the shadows he has performed a stunningly diverse series, approaching many genres with his distinct aesthetic voice.  And in doing so, his story has become more mysterious.  It's better that way.

1Herein known as TRFCI.
2Or whatever the exact lyrics were...this is ballpark.

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