Live Review: The Wire Festival 9/20/06
Jandek’s appearance was rare…so rare in fact that when it had been announced last year that he might appear one of the days at the Wire Festival, many people bought tickets for every night of the event just hoping to catch him. Jandek played guitar with his back turned for a substantial portion of the time when he wasn’t singing and at times the vocals were very sparse and tangential. In one sense, it was a matter of free association and yet at times the words seemed more calculated. It felt like a Jim Jarmusch film; intelligent but also dreamy. It was difficult to distinguish at some times whether you were hearing music or an avant garde poetry session. We were all journeying on an unpopulated highway and we could somehow all relate a bit to the terrain of the road. Jandek sang, “Don’t know the reason I feel this way” at one point and “The hours go by but it takes a long time” at another. His audience was willing to wait for him. The songs were lengthy and sometimes circular with repetitive bass lines and intense build-ups but ultimately they made you feel they were composed after an entire night of no sleep and decaf coffee. For a brief moment, one of the bass lines hit some warmer tones that actually reminded me a bit of the feel of Tim Buckley’s Blue Afternoon and I had to wonder what kind of music he might write after seeing Jandek play if was still alive today. After all, he was so inspired at one point by the poet Lorca. The combination of poetry and music definitely left us all with images and thoughts that haven’t been as emphasized by other musicians who end up letting the music get in the way of their words. I have the utmost respect for Rhys Chatham, who has worked with everyone from Phillip Glass to Steve Reich and from Brian Eno to Glenn Branca. Yet, to be honest, I found myself being very disappointed in his set. The reason for this is mainly because he was performing as part of his heavy metal band, which featured himself on guitar with another guitarist and a drummer to create some minimalist metal that I unfortunately couldn’t relate to at all or connect with emotionally. The few times Rhys Chatham approached the microphone, he spoke with a gentle soft spoken demeanor that didn’t quite match the assaulting chords he strummed. It’s clear Rhys Chatham is an incredibly talented musician who has added a substantial amount of history to mysic with his contributions as a composer. I just hope next time he leaves the metal bit at home. Jana Hunter from Texas came out and sang bluesy songs accompanied by her guitar. She sang with a much deeper voice than I expected and she seemed so pure to me in a way with such minimal guitar effects and just a small fender amp. The Empty Bottle felt much more intimate somehow with her on stage. Tim Hecker from Vancouver, Canada plays electronic music that felt very tidal with Brian Eno-esque tones from his ambient era. To describe it, the music swarmed around the audience warmly but there was a presence lurking there amidst all of this that wasn’t as bright as it could have been. The full effect was dark at times but interesting with the unfortunate downfall that Hecker wasn’t very engaging to watch as he mainly just stood on a dark stage and pressed buttons on his PowerBook. It was definitely more of a set to close your eyes to and concentrate on listening and feeling.