Corwood Goes To Hollywood – “JANDEK LIVE AT THE ECHOPLEX” May 24th 2014 (Concert Review)

JANDEK live at The Echoplex – Los Angeles May 24. 2014

The Ensemble:

The Representative of Corwood Industries – Vocals, Acoustic and Electric Guitar, Bass and Drums

Sheila Smith – Vocals, Drums, Electric Guitar, Electric Violin,  Tambourine

Kris Bernard – Drums, Electric Bass

Emily Curran – Electric Guitar, Electric Violin

Marcus Savino – Drums  

Authored by Dale Nickey:

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Imagine you find yourself in the ultimate dystopian incarnation of Los Angeles. Blade Runner come to life. A societal structure beyond the control of those who inhabit it. A basic social infrastructure still exits, although it’s unraveling daily. You still have paper currency, markets to buy food and goods, and if you travel to the darker, stranger recesses of the city, Art. Someplace, somewhere in a disintegrating megalopolis of 10 million, a band plays in a dank, dark temple of song, conjoined in the sacred audience/performer covenant. However, what band is this? And, what kind of music would they be playing?

Those were the pictures my mind painted while observing the dark and intense set by Jandek on a balmy Los Angeles Saturday. The Representative of Corwood Industries has not yet exhausted of his bag of tricks. He gifted us with a desperately energetic band of three women which produced a joyful noise laced with estrogen and innocence at ear splitting volume. The dark stage and club ambiance contributed to the illusion of being part of a very exclusive secret society. It was a thing to behold.

After the original performance venue, “The Church On York” lost its  permit, The Jandek performance went off as scheduled at the The Echoplex. The club was jammed with several hundred Jandekophiles. And, if my informal straw poll is accurate, the demographic of the typical Angeleno Jandek enthusiast skews decidedly towards anglo, polite, attractive, educated late-20’s to early 30’s Alternative music fans. Good demo for Jandek, bad news for the barkeep, who saw precious little activity at the watering hole. Of course, the seven dollar draft beers might have been a deterrent as well.

The common topic of pre-show conversation revolved around which Jandek would show up. Would he perform solo? Would he go ambient for a two hour stretch? Or, would he improvise on electric guitar atonally as he did on the live album “Houston Saturday”? To say there was a pre-gig buzz, would be an understatement. History was about to be made,  if only for a cult of a few hundred.

Jandek rewarded us with a generous sampler of his various musical personalities. The big surprise was the appearance of lead singer/spoken word artist Sheila Smith. She was pretty much group spokesperson and focal point while The Representative hopscotched from instrument to instrument. However, the show opened with The Artist sitting on a stool at the front the stage armed with his acoustic guitar and his voice. No “Hello Los Angeles!” was offered by the artist or desired by the audience. In fact the club was dead silent while the artist fiddled interminably with a plastic bag of ‘who knows what’ to retrieve a suitable guitar pick. I saw Andres Segovia perform at the Dorothy Chandler pavilion in the seventies. That crowd was unruly by comparison. This portion of the show consisted of prepared and composed acoustic songs, “Whiling The Night Away” and “Hallway”. Both were effective and very well received.

Jandek then put down the guitar and his charismatic female ensemble took over the stage. He grabbed the microphone and proceeded to engage in an improvised spoken word smack down with front lady Sheila Smith. The piece will probably end up with the title “I Got It” because the exchange revolved around who had what and why, although it was never specifically revealed what “it” precisely was. Smith played the role of “Da Rep’s” lust interest with sass and brio. Many in the audience wondered if the hormone drenched stagecraft on display was psycho-drama or the real deal. The Representative himself, was animated and engaged. He then strapped on a Fender Precision bass and more interplay with Smith ensued. This portion of the show was clearly performed without a net or prepared music. Jandek’s bass playing was inspired, energetic, and filled the room with his unique, harmonically ambiguous presence.

The Representative clearly was relishing his role as Zen Master of  chaotic convergence. The third act of the set saw the artist sit behind the drum kit. The ensemble out front jammed and free associated while the man himself proved a capable –albeit idiosyncratic -skin beater.

The fourth and last act saw our hero strap on an electric guitar and lead his ensemble in a classic Jandekian demolition of all discernable melodic or harmonic structures. Then, too soon, it was over and the man in black left the stage and disappeared into the night. An encore was desired and called for, but we all knew The Representative would not engage in such a hackneyed Rock and Roll convention.

More Jandek? Click>>> Dublin Friday Houston Thursday

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After the concert, The Muse Patrol had the opportunity to speak with multi-instrumentalist Kris Bernard. She was a member of Jandek’s ad-hoc ensemble convened exclusively for the L.A. performance. She played bass and drums. Her back story is nearly as compelling as the performance itself. Kris had never performed on stage before May 24, 2014, and even more remarkable, had no prior musical training or experience on any instrument at the time of her induction into the group.

The Muse Patrol (TMP): Before the gig, were you familiar with Jandek’s music?

Kris Bernard (KB): “I was, I have a couple of his records. How all this came to pass is, I played one of the records for my boyfriend. He basically had a reaction that I thought was funny, so I tweeted that.”

(TMP): What was the tweet?

(KB) : ‘I played a Jandek record for my boyfriend, he immediately hated it, mid-way through he said he wasn’t sure about it, and then by the end of side one he loved it.’ So I tweeted that”

(TMP): Which record was it?

(KB) “The Living End”

(TMP): How were you contacted for the gig?

(KB): “I was contacted on twitter by Sheila. She told me Jandek was going to be playing in L.A. I told her I was definitely going. Then, she asked me if I had any musical experience, and I said no. So I thought she wanted to form a band, not realizing she had any association with Jandek. I asked her where she lived in L.A., and she told me she lived in Houston. I still didn’t know what was happening. At a certain point, she told me she was going to form a band to play the same night as Jandek. I thought this was going to be an opening band. I didn’t know it was going to be Jandek.”

(TMP): Had you ever had any musical experience before you got up onstage with Jandek?

(KB) “No. Well actually as soon as I found out about the show. I have a friend who gives music lessons, so I got three hours with him, with a guitar, a bass and on drums. But it was a very limited amount.  And, I basically forgot everything since a month ago.”

(TMP) Remarkable, I would not have known you had zero experience as a musician.

(KB) “That’s good.”

(TMP) When you told Corwood that you had no musical experience, it didn’t matter?

(KB) “I think that was their preference.”

(TMP): What do you do?

(KB) “I used to do web design, and now I’m project manager at a tech company.”

(TMP): As far as preparation, was there any rehearsal at all?

(KB): “No. I had anticipated there would be. We met at The Echo at 2:00 p.m. We waited a long time for the sound guys to get set up. Finally the sound guy went like, ‘do you guys want to try some of your instruments?’, At that point The Representative from Corwood said, ‘yeah, why not?’ Like it hadn’t been thought of before, But, because the sound guy suggested it, they’re like ‘OK, sure let’s do that’. So I picked up the electric violin and I just kinda started hacking away at that. And it sounded really rough. But that (sound-check) was basically the only thing we had other than a prepared set list which was not about songs, but just, ‘at this point you’ll work on this instrument, and at this point you’ll work on that one.’

(TMP): No keys or riffs or anything like that?

(KB) “No, not at all (laughs).”

(TMB): You mentioned your boyfriend, was he in the band at all?

(KB) “Yes Marcus Savino, he’s the one who played at the end.”

(TMB): As regards free form music, it takes a certain fearlessness to stare down 300 people packed into a club. A lot of trained musicians won’t do it. Was there apprehension? Did you have to slam down a couple of Tequilas?

(KB): “Well, I definitely had some Tequila. But, I think, for me I was most comfortable on the drums. That was during the second set I played two songs on the drums. That was definitely my favorite part. At the third and fourth set, I was on bass. And the third set I was supposed to do some improv vocals and I don’t think I got anything out. So that was the least comfortable part for me.”

(TMP): I don’t want to get tabloid, but with Sheila onstage, there was a lot of sexual energy or interplay with The Representative. Was that shtick, or was there something going on?

(KB): “I don’t know the workings of their relationship.”

(TMP): So you never met Sheila before the gig?

(KB) “No. Nor had I ever met Emily (Emily Curran)”

(TMP): Do you think you’ll ever meet Jandek again?

(KB): “I would be surprised. Although I am from Texas. And so, I think I’ll be in Houston sometime this year. I’ll definitely try to reach out, but I don’t know if it will result in anything.”

(TMP): I want to get to the soul of the man. But I’m as interested as anybody else in preserving the mystique. Did he introduce himself to you as anybody?

(KB): “No. He didn’t actually introduce himself at all. At the point where there were introductions, he didn’t say a name at all. He just said hi. He was so nice. From what I’ve read from other press, he doesn’t refer to himself as Jandek at all, but instead, as The Representative. But he did not call himself that either.”

(TMP): I’ve heard he is well spoken.

(KB): “Yes.”

(TMP): After the gig did you toast each other or say ‘Nice Job’ or anything?

(KB): “Yeah, when it was just the five of us up in the green room, the Representative seemed to be really pleased with it. He said it was one of the best shows.”

(TMP) Did anyone mention that this show would be released on CD or DVD? Was it filmed?

(KB) “Yeah it was. So I think it will be released. That’s the sense I got.”

(TMP): Now that this has happened, do you have any plans to pursue music?

(KB): “You know it’s funny, Marcus and I are together so I live with a drum set, but I’ve never played it ever. But it’s in my basement. I had so much fun with the drums, I think I’m gonna continue to play with it.”

The interview was winding down. Kris Bernard’s story was  compelling. However, my desire to get inside the soul of the man  was left unrequited. Then, before we rung off, Kris turned the tables and asked me a question……

(KB): “Can I tell you something he said before the show that I will probably have with me for the rest of my life?”

(TMP): Absolutely.

(KB): “One thing the representative said to all of us was…‘there are no mistakes, if you think you made a mistake, go further into that mistake, and then it’s not a mistake.’

Click here to visit Corwood>>>>http://corwoodindustries.co

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Bjork + Biophilia + Bowl = Brilliant (Concert Review)

Bjork at The Hollywood Bowl – (06/11/13)

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More Bjork?..click>>>>  medullabiophiliaolympicsMatmos /bjork

Reviewed by Dale Nickey:

After three intimate in-the-round performances at the Hollywood Palladium, planet Bjork landed at The Hollywood Bowl Tuesday night for one last blast of the potent nature/technology/music cocktail that is her current Biophilia project.  One wonders if the Hollywood-specific focus of her efforts is, in any way, a statement to Tinseltown that there is more to Bjork  than the much ballyhooed swan dress that she wore at the 2001 Oscar ceremony.  Probably not.  She has never been known to give a crap about celebrity gossip.

No matter, the assembled multitude at The Bowl will only remember Bjork and Graduale Nobili (Icelandic ‘choir girls gone wild’) performing a generous, lavish set of outsider Art-Pop.  Bjork has recovered fully from throat surgery that forced date cancellations earlier in the tour.  If you’re worried about the state of her voice, don’t.  She pushed the degree of difficulty and stuck every landing.  And, if the adoring Bowl throng was disappointed at not hearing fan favorites “Isobel”, “Human Behavior”, or “Bachlorette”, they didn’t show it.  Give Bjork her props;  she held a canyon full of hyperactive metrosexuals and millennials spellbound with a set of brainy, complex, and (for the most part) downbeat selections from her latest album “Biophilia”,  as well as some eclectic offerings from her back catalog.

After the audience bestowed their patience on the sacrificial opening act, our heroine made sure we cooled our heals in the parlor an appropriate amount of time before she deigned to descend the staircase and receive callers.  All the while a curt text message appeared on the five massive video screens (in Spanish and English) informing us that her majesty did not appreciate bootleg recording or I-phone waving at the expense of her performance…tank yu…

Initially, this writer had some concern about the diminutive warrior princess getting lost in the vast expanse of The Hollywood Bowl.  Fears were put to rest quickly with the opener “Cosmology”. The video images were celestial and stunning.  More important, they were relevant. Bjork’s latest work “Biophilia” is an album length love letter to nature in all its forms and substructures. Deep space, moon, rock crystals and microscopic organisms. The resulting live show is equal parts multi-media rock extravaganza and x-treme power point presentation.

One small beef was that Bjork only appeared on the big screen once during her performance. That was on the second song “Hunter”.  It was a tease not to be repeated.

Sound was precise, full, clear and excellent throughout.  Sonic integrity was even maintained during the mega-decibel set closer “Nattura”, where Bjork and the girls let their hair down and had a collective spazz attack while flames engulfed the stage.

There was a scarcity of classic material on the set list.  However, when Bjork did lob a chart hit into the audience it was gobbled up voraciously like sharks to chum.  “Joga” (from Homogenic) was moving and poignant; an emotional highlight.  Also, “Possibly Maybe” benefited greatly from a post-modern makeover from her skilled and focused two- piece band.  Again, a shout out to Graduale Nobili .  Refreshingly free of spandex and danskins;  all of them sang their asses off,  all of them had a blast,  and all were real  flesh and blood beauties who looked like they didn’t mind eating a healthy meal.

In the end, Bjork rewarded our adoration with three encore pieces.  First off was a gorgeous a cappella workout by the girls titled “Oskasteiner”.  Then Bjork came out sporting some sort of spiked plastic head-wear. She then gave us a proper orgasm with “Hyperballad”.  When Bjork and band finally floored the gas pedal on “Declare Independence”, she had all the shiny happy people dancing in the aisles.

It’s nice to know that in this dystopian, Duck Dynasty world, it’s still possible to enjoy an alien visitation. In our time and place, Bjork is as close to an extraterrestrial as we’re likely to get. Seeing her live should definitely be on your bucket list.  Because, like the snow leopard; when she’s gone, that’s it, show’s over. There won’t be another coming along to replace her.

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Concert Review – Bryan Adams “Bare Bones” Live at The Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza (10/12/12)

Reviewed by Dale Nickey:

My wife turned me on to Bryan Adams. And, while his music remains a little too mainstream for my personal comfort, I have grown to respect his talent and work ethic immensely. Not to mention, he has written some great songs. My first impression of him was from the 80’s monster hit “Cuts Like A Knife”.  I immediately (and unfairly) dismissed him as a junior league Springsteen or Canada’s answer to John Mellencamp.  In a sense he does mine the same rock quarry as other heartland rockers, but he has none of the pretensions of a Springsteen and (truth be known) writes better melodies than Mellencamp.

Critical nitpicking aside, Bryan Adams is a major talent.  It’s an easy assessment to make while sitting third row center at this latest installment of his unplugged and personal “Bare Bones” tour. Adams takes the stage armed with only a Martin guitar, his formidably gritty voice and an endless set-list of hits. He is intermittently accompanied by solid, unobtrusive grand pianist Gary Breit who adds heft and gravitas at all the right moments.

The stage lighting is spare and unfussy; spotlighting the man and the music perfectly.  Adams still has his boyish frame and his impish teenage kid-next-door looks and humor. He basks in the audience adulation while refusing to court it or kiss ass. A packed house hung on every quip and guitar strum.  And, if you are not a fan of his music, at least give it up for a 52 year old man who can make an auditorium full of Conejo Valley cougars and soccer moms swoon on command. Even the nubile twenty-something girls sitting next to me maintained rapt attention for the entire two hour concert.

In the end it’s the voice that commands the hall. Bryan Adams is simply one of the most expert and controlled rock singers in the business. He has the grit of Rod Stewart, the range of a young Robert Plant with pitch control to spare. And, while Bryan’s guitars skills are those of a journeyman; he knows his instrument and has a solid command and confidence in his playing that assures the songs are always framed effectively.  There are no tuning problems or muffed chords at a Bryan Adams concert. I also give high marks to the sound; which was present, full and powerful without being overbearing.

I’m old school enough to still believe the test of a true musician is the ability to stand before two thousand paying customers without amps, tinsel or dance troupes and deliver music to the masses that leaves them wanting more. Bryan Adams has been turning this trick now for the last two years and does not seem to be slowing down yet. Who needs a band when you’re The Man?

Pathetic Prog Time Capsule – Yes at Mandalay Bay 4/21/04 (Originally published in “Notes From The Edge” 6/4/04)

Mandelay Bay, Las Vegas 4/21/04

By Dale Nickey:

Another year, another Yes incarnation. One of the few bands from ’60s that has all members and alumni alive and in remarkably good health. Not by luck, but testimony to the mysterious force Karma, because Yes music was and remains stubbornly and unfashionably positive and spiritually nourishing to performer and listener. After watching the steep decline of the “Trevor Years”, Las Vegas would have been the projected sight of the band’s final death throws ala’ Chicago and Air Supply. However, the Yes twilight years have been their most heroic and fascinating. The “KEYS TO ASCENSION” reunion with Rick Wakeman was to be their realife firebird suite. A resurrection from the ashes of punk. Rick’s health problems crumpled that blueprint.

The long march back to the limelight took a little longer than projected. Detours into symphonia, infirmity, solo albums, and HOB residencies have finally culminated in a proper reunion of the classic Yes lineup; returning to their rightful place on the Hockey arena circuit and supported by “rock blocks” on classic rock radio.

Yes still refuses to play safe. Their Las Vegas show was lavish, loud, and as always, precise and expertly played. All bases were covered. “Unplugged set”, new wardrobe, Roger Dean stage set, predictable favorites, unpredictable gems, and a set spanning most significant points in the Yes canon. I saw “Going for the One” coming a mile a way. “Every Little Thing” was a left hook to the jaw. “And You and I” somehow retains its majesty while “South Side of Sky” is a welcome respite from “Heart of the Sunrise”.

“Ritual” was a, ahem… curious choice for a set closer. Steve Howe’s closing outro to “Turn of the Century” was staggeringly beautiful and daring. If “Awaken” is becoming a little too familiar to the band they might have a go at “Homeworld” from “The LADDER”. Let Rick sink his teeth into that one. Am I alone in thinking that piece has been criminally neglected since the “House of Yes” tour? It was transporting when I saw it performed.

Yes has climbed the mountain tops. Been the biggest band in the world, public enemy #1 in the late 70’s. Out of touch, out of funds and now have returned as a respected elder of the music business. They stake credible claim to the title “The Worlds Finest Progressive Group”. Actually, the “Best Band in the World” period. That will do. Show me a better one. You can’t.

Hello Hall of Fame???!!!! Now that The Dells are safely in, maybe you can grow some balls and pay grudging respect to 40,000,000 record buyers five consummate, committed and enlightened musicians who, by the way, happen to be FAMOUS!

PATHETIC PROG TIME CAPSULE – YES at The Forum (Los Angeles 1984)

THE FORUM
LOS ANGELES – March 26, 1984

Authored by Dale Nickey:

I can bear witness to the re-birth. I woke up one early morning in a half conscious state to what I thought was the voice of Jon Anderson. Impossible, since the station I was tuned into only played contemporary pop. However, incredibly, this was Yes. I had lost track of the band after “DRAMA” and was busy with my own group and a new day job with the government. However, I rushed out immediately and purchased “90125”. Mmmmm…. different album cover for sure. Obviously they are thinking outside the box. Good for them.

Now I am sitting in a packed Los Angeles Forum. This will be their first L.A. gig as a Billboard certified # 1 act.  Supposedly the support act Berlin will be opening. However, the stage setup does not look support band friendly. Sure enough, a Bugs Bunny cartoon on the screen at the back of the stage serves as opening act. A good one too. The one about Bugs bullfighting in Barcelona. My inside sources tell me Berlin was put out about the late cancellation and are considering legal redress. I was victim of this come on before when Steeleye Span was advertised as opener on the “Tales From Topographic Oceans” tour. I got some singer-songwriter on a stool instead.

Trevor Rabin is quite obviously the young blood in this veteran band. Jon Anderson looks a bit like a “glammed-up” Robin Williams in his “Mork” phase. Appropriate, given the space-age ambiance of stage set for the 90125 tour. Gray, spartan, uncluttered, and modern, just like the album cover. Chris Squire is robust and playing better than ever although he obviously has aged. A modern brush back cut and a layered couture’ are used to good effect to mitigate father time’s indiscretions. He looks a bit like a human incarnation of a brown onion. Tony Kaye is an eye opener. He plays all the old classics faithfully with contemporary sounds. He plays the tricky riff for “Long Distance Runaround” with both right and left hands. He is obviously there for good reason aside from historical continuity. I would have loved to see Eddie Jobson with the band as originally planned. But, Tony deserves the good karma after his brusk dismissal at the beginning of the group’s mass popularity. His token nod to space age fashion is a Silver metallic sports coat that conceals a rock and roller clad in black sleeveless T and black trousers.

Trevor is obviously a gifted EVERYTHING and has looks to boot. His guitar playing is definitely from the Widdely, Whammy, hey LOOK AT ME!!! school of rock guitar. Van Halen, Schon, Lukather… you get the idea. However, in this genre he is clearly the most nuanced and melodic. Having a producer like Trevor Horn doesn’t’ hurt either. Anyway, back to the concert:

The band opens “Cinema” followed by “Leave It”, A spirited manifesto for multi-tracked harmony singing. It is the closest the Trevor
band would ever come to the old Yes sound. All members contribute vocals. The concert is off to a successful start. I am seated close to the stage at the side and have a full view of Tony Kaye’s back and his keyboard rig. “And You And I” fairs the worst from the Yes makeover. Trevor’s obvious “No Howe” policy leaves him sitting short at the table in the face of a magnum opus of this scale and detail. His execution of the simple 3 chord verse is perfunctory and passionless. The dive bombing, string bending approach to the solo is likewise out of place. Chris Squire performs “The Fish” for the first time in several years and brings down the house. “Amazing Grace” is referenced as a bass solo. His tune “It Could Happen” is also very well received. It is apparent that this band is very much a Chris baby with Trevor taking over full time nanny/custodial care. Let Steve Howe go make kazillions with ASIA. It is now Yes’ turn as a # 1 hitmaking band. Quite a saga if the critics cared. They don’t.

Not much more to say. Yes remains a sell-out live attraction, but the ante has been raised. They are now at the top rather than in pursuit of the top. Different paradigm. Yes will TORMATO us again with “BIG GENERATOR” (Horrible record cover and disjointed collection of songs with a couple of gems). Anderson will tire of the starmaking machinery a go running back to the more artsy/European sensibility of ABWH. Yes will never be this popular again. However, the team has finally won their first World Cup. They now have some laurels to rest on before moving on to the third act.