Concert Reviews

Live Review: Jandek at the Bug Theater

Photo: Tom Murphy Jandek Friday, July 25, 2008 The Bug Theater Better Than: Having to see Jandek at some big theater.

I didn’t even recognize Andrew Lindstrom or Milton Melvin Croissant III when I ran into them outside the Bug before the show. Lindstrom looked like he’d gotten off bus from the James Gang tour circa 1974 with long, curly, straggly, but not messy, hair and prominent moustache. We both discussed a mutual disdain for The Eagles. Croissant didn’t even have the hat I always see him wearing and he looked like a cool stockbroker. This odd scene was nothing compared to the music that was about to take place and anyone who saw Mr. Lindstrom and didn’t know him would never have guessed he is one of the most talented drummers in Denver and not a candidate for the lead in a movie version of The Monkey Wrench Gang.

There was a soothing but haunting blue wash of light on all the players when they walked one by one on to the stage. No one, not even Jandek in his signature black hat, said a word to the audience before they started their first song. Most of the people who showed up probably had an idea how lucky and privileged they are to get to see this rare performance because it’s not like Jandek has performed in even L.A. or New York City. Jandek played bass for this performance and his style was as unique as his music. It was a combination of slap and plucking the strings so that he could produce complicated rhythms while also creating sonic textures that, too, guided the other musicians.

At times, Kevin Richards’s guitar work reminded me of that of Michael Brook’s work for Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan—sinuous, bright, haunting and resonant. The Corwood Representative, as I suppose I should call him since this group of people were Jandek during this performance, sang in a surprisingly musical atonal range most of the time. But he would also shade his voice a little toward the melodic for various passages. His vocals meshed well with Brittany Gould’s angelic, versatile, soaring voice and together they created a sense of the otherworldly in voice that you almost never get to hear.

The entire proceedings bore little resemblance to anything I’ve ever seen in a show before. Possible comparisons could be made, for the sense of hyper reality established throughout, to the times I saw the Residents at the King Cat Theater for their Demons Dance Alone tour or when I got to see Laurie Anderson at the Boulder Theater a few years back. You just can’t compare the music that was created this night with anything even remotely conventional and yet it was never too weird to be enjoyable and beautiful to the ears.

During one of the songs, Andrew Lindstrom dragged a chain of some kind across the drum kit to create unrepeatable percussive sounds that seemed to accompany the rest of the instrumentation well and in fact a lot of it had me thinking of Sufi devotional music except the American equivalent of that that doesn’t exist. Sometimes it was sort of a spectral, no-wave funk and at points crossed into what might be considered a dark, somber corner of ambient free jazz. Sometimes Karl Zickrick and Corwood would both play bass but Zickrick definitely kept up the nice low-end drones and streaming.

For the final song, Gould put a feather in her hair so that she looked like some kind of mythical Indian princess and Lindstrom seemed to be etching his ride cymbal intently with a drum stick, making a resonant clatter, looking, as was observed by light technician extraordinaire, Amy Rau, as though he were writing a furiously angry letter to Corwood but ending up apologetic and signing it with his affections.

Toward the end of the song, there was a truly inspiring passage of music that was incandescent in its dissonance like the shower of sparks you get when buffing a piece of metal. All in all, the show felt like you had entered someone else’s dream with the dense, imaginative flavor of it all and you were let out of that post-hypnagogic state when the musicians left the stage with the same lack of fanfare and ceremony that they took that stage two hours and eight songs before. It was a remarkable and striking performance of mind-expanding music by anybody’s standards. -- Tom Murphy

Critic's Notebook Personal Bias: If it’s experimental and there’s a compelling artistic point to be made, I love it. Random Detail: I saw Crawford and Ryan from the Vitamins at the show, along with Dugout Canoe, nervesandgel, Luke from the Don’t and Be Carefuls, Weston from Spiralling Stairs, Zimmerman from Pinkku and others in attendance. By the Way: This was probably the only time anyone is going to get to see Jandek in Denver or any city nearby. Fortunately the performance was caught on film and will probably be made available at some time in the future.

This is the nineteenth in a series of thirty consecutive shows that Tom Murphy is planning on attending. His whole idea is to prove that there's cool stuff going on any night of the week in Denver, if you bother to make any effort whatsoever to find it. He suggested naming this series, "This Band Could Be Your Life," a fitting designation to be sure. Since there's already a similarly titled book, however, we opted to file these entries under Last Night's Show -- you know, to avoid being sued an all. (Sorry, Tom.)

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Cory Casciato is a Denver-based writer with a passion for the geeky, from old science fiction movies to brand-new video games.
Contact: Cory Casciato