Jandek Mango's July 12, 2012
"So what do you know about tonight's set?" I ask Dunnock, stalwart soundman at Mango's, trying to play Jimmy Ace Reporter just minutes before Jandek walks onstage, close to half past 8 p.m. on Thursday night. Without a beat...
"Um, it's Jandek Punk Rock Experience," he says, fiddling with a smoke. "He brought in a female singer, a bassist from Boston, and a guy from Darwin's Finches," he finishes.
Jandek and punk do not get used a lot in the same sentence, though people try to call what he does "punk" to be cheeky or grandiose.
Before Thursday night I had never seen Jandek live myself, but I had spent years in bars, living rooms, and coffee shops listening to people talk about who or what they thought he was, his power and glory, and his weirdo outsider tag. But I had listened to him plenty for myself and didn't lionize him like most, because that didn't seem respectful.
It seemed to do him a disservice. I felt like I knew where he was coming from and respected it and understood the importance of the tales that had sprouted up around him.
I still think of him as a normal guy who tinkers with sound, and rightfully shuns the bigger spotlight because let's face it, only the righteously insane do that. To him music seems to be like working on your car in the garage or doing yardwork. There is zen to be found in both.
The improvisational band Jandek put together and played with last night was made up of Justino Saladino from Darwin's Finches, sitting on drums; a pixie-like female singer, Sheila Smith (no relation to Sterling); and one Kevin Bogart, a bass player from the Boston area.
Previous Jandek gigs in Houston have brought the funk, the gloom, and the dance, but last night he was all feedback, grumble and disjointed punk. Saladino would began a drum pattern, Bogart would fill it in, and Jandek would reach that thumb and hand on the neck of his guitar and explore expanses that brought to mind the Dead Boys, the Minutemen and most every early to mid-'80s hardcore punk template you could imagine.
Smith would form lyrics on the fly, at one point screaming "You're not from Houston, you're from Dallas," in a Poly Styrene (RIP) squawk. Jandek maybe said four words in the microphone, and they were all "yeah" or "uh-huh." Jandek and Smith sat on the floor at one point, and Smith sang/told a story about going to the fair while Jandek played sitting cross-legged.
One of the leather jacket-clad punks in the crowd would writhe to and fro, a dreadlocked guy would howl approval, and the rest of politely nodded along. Whenever the band would get locked into a beat they would come right out of it, creating and abandoning the sonic beds. There was a small official crew there filming and recording audio of the show too.
The new cave-like atmosphere of Mango's served the sound well, adding to whatever vibe Jandek was trying to paint the walls with. As I messaged friends about the show they didn't believe the direction that the night ended up going, so I hope that some of the footage that was being recorded gets onto YouTube soon.
Personal Bias: Guitars?
The Crowd: People lucky enough to know that the show started at 8 p.m.
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Overheard in the Crowd: Talking. People talking during a Jandek show.
Random Notebook Dump: Jandek's long beard and hair make him look like he should be in Valient Thorr.