Saturday, November 13, 2010

Jandek-Veterans Memorial Hall, Davis, CA 11/12/10

Having missed Jandek's SF Bay Area shows a few years back, I was determined to make the trip Davis for this one, despite scant advance notice.
Davis Veterans Memorial Hall seemed to be the perfect venue for this show. The feel of this small theater, with its 1950's design and intimate vibe, gave the proceedings less an air of "Rock show" and more of that of a recital. Given Jandek's very non-show biz approach, that seemed fitting.

The band consisted of Jandek on keyboards (Yamaha keyboard and Korg synth), accompanied by Davis musicians Christian Kiefer on guitar, Alex Jenkins on drums, and Greg Brucker on double bass.  This trio proved to be amazingly adept accompaniment for the Corwood Representative.
When I've listened to Jandek's recordings, they have often seemed to be made up of improvised music coupled to his Outsider poems of longing and loneliness. Not so at Davis, at least musically. The set's tunes were pretty clearly worked out header figures, with either Brucker or Jandek generally leading them in with small sound kernels, after which Kiefer and Jenkins would commence with their accompaniment. Jandek's keyboard sound was somewhat reminiscent of the 1960's approach of Sun Ra; he proved pretty adept at coaxing chiming bell tones out of his Yamaha and more smeary tones from the Korg. Kiefer's playing was a joy to hear. He alternated between a high, lonesome twang and blasts of pure post-Rock noise (on banjo, even!), all the while keeping his tone and playing approach very "Corwood". Brucker utilized loops and deep, long, bowed tones to provide an often surreal undertone. Jenkins, using a tiny kit of floor tom, djembe, trash can, and small percussion, was particularly amazing, in the amount of tone and texture he was able to coax from his battery. 
And the overall group sound? A delicious blast of primal, primitive ESP-type scree, at times quiet in order to accommodate Jandek's poems, at times blaring away to bring their impact home. The cacophonous passages hit Ayler/Godz levels of pure improvisational fire and grunge, and the vocal passages allowed for Jandek's words to have their full despairing and alienated effect. 
After almost two hours of playing, the group finished off with a solemn, chime-ey instrumental, and Jandek slowly closed his poetry book. They walked off, the house lights turned on, and the assembled crowd shuffled out, for the most part silent, for the most part smiling.

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