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Jandek and Low

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cover image No, not on the same stage or even the same venue but when both Jandek and Low were booked for the same date I made sure I could attend both if possible. The solo acoustic Jandek performance was for the opening of an exhibition of Corwood album art and Low were headlining day two of the Future Days festival (day one is reviewed here). Both of them put on great but obviously very different shows.


Dublin, 13 June

Taking my seat in the Douglas Hyde Gallery, I scanned the room to see the exhibition of Jandek album covers but all I saw were white walls. Evidently the exhibition was not ready. This was probably just as well, as the stark whiteness formed the perfect backdrop for the representative from Corwood as he walked out of a side room. Slowly, silently, carefully, he took his place at the front of the room and with a pregnant silence opened up his satchel, taking out his notebook and picked up his guitar. The room buzzed with the non-sound of 100 people holding their breaths. Then the representative started strumming.

cover   imageThe sound was so familiar; you hear one Jandek song and you have heard them all (and I do not mean this in a negative sense). They all come from the same place and they all have the same effect on the listener. There is a singular focus that works on the audience like a magnifying glass concentrating sunlight onto an ant. Tonight there was one rhythm that all the songs followed, well more specifically that all the strumming followed as the lyrics had a beat of their own. The atonal guitar chords occasionally slipped into what may be called a riff but each line sung cut through the music like a blade through flesh. As there is no repetition, no verses and no choruses, it is difficult to remember what the representative was singing about last night. The words were dropped like stones into a deep, dark abyss, never to be encountered again.

For about an hour the audience was held in rapture and then, that was it. He stood up, put his notebook away and almost glided out of the room leaving an empty void in what was an ordinary gallery space before.

cover imageLeaving the venue, I walked across the few streets separating the gallery from Andrews Lane Theatre where Low were playing. Luckily they had not taken the stage yet so I had enough time to pay in, buy a pint and take my position in the crowd. I had missed the support acts but sacrifices have to be made sometimes. Low began their set with several songs off Drums and Guns, each song given a completely different spin from the studio versions and even the way they used to play them live. "Sandinista" was the most radically changed, Alan Sparhawk playing the verse guitar from the Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young song "Ohio" and looping it. The clash of the lines "Where would you go if the gun fell in your hands?" with the unsung "What if you knew her and found her dead on the ground?" was very powerful.

Overall the group felt more rock than normal. Everything was loud and at times a little shaky but still maintaining that beauty that runs through all their songs. A lot of songs from Trust were aired, a wonderful version of "Canada" being one of the gig's many highlights. It was a few minutes before the guitar riff started properly as Sparhawk wailed on his axe over the song’s distinctive rhythm section. The freak out (yes, Low freaking out) continued with Sparhawk howling the lyrics of the last verse through his guitar pickup.

By the end of the gig (including two encores), I was a sweat but delighted mess. I have seen Low a few times and every time I walk out of the venue I say the same thing: I've never seen them better. I hope they continue this trend.

Last Updated on Sunday, 15 June 2008 14:53  


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