Aftermath: Jandek at Rudyard's
Photos by Mark C. Austin
Aftermath had literally no idea what to expect at Sunday afternoon's Jandek show at Rudyard's, the first-ever public performance in Houston by one of the world's leading "outsider" musicians (who just happens to live here). From the little he knows of Jandek's prodigious catalogue, his best guess would have been a somewhat downcast solo performance on scratchy acoustic guitar. A one-song, 75-minute atomic funk explosion by way of the Knitting Factory was about the last thing Aftermath would have guessed, but that's exactly what he and the rest of the crowd packed into Rudyard's upstairs got.
Just after 4 p.m., the rail-thin Jandek - clad in all black from his Panama hat to his dress shoes - bassist Keith Vivens and drummer Tyson Sheth nonchalantly walked onstage. "Yall in for a wild time tonight," Vivens said, and he was right. Instantaneously, the trio launched into a prodigious jam like George Clinton and Parlaiment-Funkadelic might have in 1975. Vivens' gelatinous five-note bass figure took care of the melody, Jandek's astringent blues guitar filled in the accents and Sheth's cucumber-cool drumming kept things moving forward. It was off the cuff and in the pocket, and just kept going... and going... and going...
About ten minutes in, Jandek, who had been facing Sheth the entire time, body swaying like a snake charmer's muse as he played about as high up on his guitar's neck as he could, finally turned around and approached the microphone. What followed was a David Byrne-like stream-of-consciousness beatnik semi-rap Jandek improvised from the pages on the music stand beside him: "Food... drink... computers... numbers... writing... money... girls... walking... running..." "Preposterous optimism" drew the first of several roars from the crowd, repeated when he actually smiled after "so happy."
Thirty minutes and counting... someone began throwing confetti eggs onstage; neither the trio or the mass of dancers writhing down front seemed to notice. More words, apropos to the feverish vibe in the room as the jam rounded the 45-minute mark: "You walk away... I hear you say... goodbye... I will continue... until you don't... it's all a swirl... it's all a whirl... what happened to the girl?... it's the real world." Yep. Pretty much.
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Finally, at about 5:15, they called time, resting a few minutes before the delirious crowd screamed them back onstage for 15 more minutes of the same bananas jam. It was one of the longest, strongest, funkiest, chunkiest, sprawling, crawling, bleating, bleeding, beating musical conversations Aftermath has ever heard. Jimi Hendrix run through the Glenn Branca No Wave finishing school. Live guitar sculpturing, sound as metal. Maggot Brain on (more) acid. The basement jam at the end of the world.
And there's more to come. Jandek will join New England drone duo MV + EE at DiverseWorks May 3. Aftermath has a hunch it won't sound anything like Sunday, but he'll be there just to make sure.