Kendra Steiner Editions (Bill Shute)

April 6, 2009

JANDEK, Rudyard’s, Houston TX—5 April 2009 (comments)

Filed under: Uncategorized — kendrasteinereditions @ 10:46 am

This was a historic Jandek concert. Yes, every Jandek concert is different, he rarely if ever repeats material, he works with diverse groups of musicians (often people from the local avant-improv scene in whatever city he’s playing), and he’s played a wide variety of instruments at different shows. But this time, there were a number of factors that combined for a very different experience:

1) Before the show, Sterling stood by the side of the performance area and chatted with anyone who came up to him. Probably 20+ people (including me) spoke to him before the show;

2) He had a funk-based bassist, who kept a solid but evolving R&B riff going for the entire 75 minute performance. It was one piece and it wove four vocal passages into it. Otherwise, it was a funk bass riff  (the bassist was amazing!!) with solid steady drum support and Sterling playing a semi-psychedelic splatter guitar that was right up the alley of fans of either “I Heard Her Call My Name”-era Lou Reed or Thurston Moore/Lee Ranaldo guitar work on the various Sonic Youth albums, while still being 100% Jandek (I sent a text message to a few friends during the show that read, “Jandek goes psychedelic funk” );

3)  Sterling interacted with and looked at the audience more than ever. He’s always responded to the audiences and been inspired by their response, but I’ve never seen it as clearly evident as here, where the audience would chant something and he’d deliver riffs back in a kind of call and response;

4)  People were dancing at the side of the stage. Previously, I’ve seen Jandek CONCERTS, where everyone was sitting in a chair and we were viewing a PERFORMANCE. However, this was a club date, where he was six inches from hard-drinking, fist-in-the-air bar patrons, and it was a participatory event. People even threw cascarones onto the stage (Easter being a week away), and the confetti was flying as the musicians played;

5)  The musicians did an encore. I can’t say there’s never been an encore before at a Jandek show, but there hasn’t been at any I’ve seen or heard. And while the 9 minute encore piece was mostly instrumental, Sterling did interject a few phrases about how “I just can’t stop” and he was clearly touched by the audience’s love and support, he was visibly happy and excited, and he was “giving it back” in spades;

6)  This was a party atmostphere. Sterling and the bassist were trading riffs and smiles the whole show, and if any concert has even featured “the happy Jandek,” this was it.

7)  Sterling again stood beside the stage after the show greeting and talking to and hugging fans.

8)  It was the first-ever Jandek concert in the man’s hometown, the city he’s been issuing albums from for 30 years!!!

I drove 200 miles each way to see this show, and I’m incredibly glad I did. I also met a number of interesting people before the show, almost all of whom had stories about how Sterling himself and the whole Jandek/Corwood project inspired them both in their own lives and in their own artistic pursuits, and also how his music opened them up and literally changed them for the better.  I’ve always said to anyone who would listen that Jandek has been my inspiration, both for my own poetry and through Corwood for the Kendra Steiner Editions imprint. It was great to meet so many others who have been liberated and challenged by Jandek as I have. The main set yesterday was about the most intense 75 minutes of music I’ve ever experienced, the only other comparable experience being Cecil Taylor doing 2-hour  sets of uninterrupted solo piano, which I saw in 1976.

Sterling will be backed by David Keenan and Heather Leigh Murray on a Jandek tour of Ireland and Scotland in a few months, and I’m sure it will be totally different from what I saw yesterday and what I’ve seen at the previous three Texas shows I’d seen prior to that. That’s what happens when you’ve got an artist who is spontaneous and who is secure enough in his artistry to throw himself into unfamiliar artistic situations with new and different collaborators and simply see what happens.

Did I say that it was an incredible experience and that it was historic for Jandek on any number of levels?

Note to Corwood Industries: release a “HOUSTON SUNDAY” cd as soon as possible. How about next week?     

                                              –Bill Shute  ( San Antonio, TX),    6 April 2009


  1. I was there. It was just as amazing as you described. I entitled one picture I took of him as “…and then Jandek smiled”

    I didn’t know his name was sterling? How did you find that out?

    Comment by Tanya — April 6, 2009 @ 7:28 pm | Reply

  2. His name is Sterling Smith… this is a matter of public record (he signs customs forms on mailed out CDs and whatnot). But he doesn’t use that name in connection with his work, nor indeed does he ever refer to himself as Jandek, although obviously that is the name on the records. Great review by the way, wish I could have been there.

    Comment by viennesewaltz — April 7, 2009 @ 3:31 am | Reply

  3. Bill,

    I’m curious: how he was to talk to? What did you talk about?


    Comment by Sean Casey — April 7, 2009 @ 1:44 pm | Reply

  4. […] backing band, it’s some of the most inspired music of Jandek’s career. Read more here and write to Corwood Industries to get a […]

    Pingback by My 5 Favorite Live Albums from 2020 | Opinion of the Court — December 4, 2020 @ 4:26 pm | Reply

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