The MCA will host two highly promising and ambitious shows that will bridge the gap between music and painting.
“The Executioner’s Last Songs” will feature the music and paintings of one of the most important figures in Chicago punk and alternative country, Jon Langford. The performance will combine music with spoken word that draws from Langford's life. Many of his distinctive paintings will also be on display.
Langford, a co- founder of the critically acclaimed Chicago punk band, The Mekons will do two special music/art shows at the Museum of Contemporary Art on Friday, January 20 and Saturday, January 21. Langford will give a free talk after Friday’s show and he will give a pre show art tour which will focus on specific works that influenced him as an artist.
Langford will perform many of the root rock songs that he did on a three volume set “The Executioner’s Last Songs” with the Pine Valley Cosmonauts. The CD contained modern reworkings of country songs against mob law, cruel and unusual punishment, and the death penalty. It was done to raise money for the Illinois Coalition Against the Death Penalty. (see Bloodshotrecords.com for more information.
Sally Timms of the Mekons will be accompanying him on bass. The band will also include Tony Maimone (from the New York post punk band Pere Ubu) on bass, Jean Cook on violin, and Dan Massey on drums. Live video mixing will be done by Barry Mills.
Langford was born in Wales, but he moved to Chicago in 1991. He has been very active in the Chicago music scene and he has recorded with many acts on Chicago’s Bloodshot records. In addition to recording with the seminal punk band, the Mekons, but he has also recorded with the honky tonk combo, the Waco Brothers, and the rock band, the Skull Orchard.
In addition, he hosts one of the most lively music programs on the radio, the Eclectic Junction. He rotates as the main host with Nicholas Tremulis, but they also bring in many guests such as Beck, Robyn Hitchcock, and John Doe to share their favorite songs and stories.
On the show, Langford displays his eclectic taste every week on the show playing everything from the Dead Boys to Bing Crosby. The program is aired on WXRT (93 FM from 10-12 pm on Tuesdays).
“The Executioner’s Last Songs” is a must see event for art, music, radio fans, comic fans, and social activists alike.
IF YOU GO ...
WHAT: Jon Langford's The Executioner's Last Songs
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, January 20 and 31
WHERE: Museum of Contemporary Art at 220 East Chicago
TICKETS: $22 donations, $18 for gallery members
“The Executioner’s Last Songs” was an enthralling multi-media musical show, which took place Saturday at the Museum of Contemporary Art.
The show featured the art and music of Jon Langford, a prominent Chicago based singer/painter/activist/radio host. He is a rotating host of my favorite radio show, The Eclectic Company, which plays everything from Bing Crosby to the Dead Boys. It airs every Tuesday on WXRT at 10 pm. (see http://www.wxrt.com/program/detail/eclectic_company.html for more info.
The bandleader, Langford is known for both his solo work and his collaborative efforts with the Waco Brothers, Kathy Acker, the Pine Valley Cosmonauts and the Mekons. The Mekons started out as a raw punk band, and they are associated with the Alternative Country (also called No Depression) movement.
“The Executioner’s Last Songs” was named after the three collections of country/folk songs with death related themes that Jon Langford did with other performers to raise money for the Illinois Coalition against the Death Penalty.”
First, Langford took MCA viewers on an amusing tour of his favorite paintings; then he participated in a fiery musical performance; and finally he joined fans for a fun filled After Hours party at Delilah’s
On the tour, Langford spoke about some of his favorite MCA paintings, including Rene Magritte’s oddly affecting Les Merveilles de la Nature (The Wonders of Nature), 1953, and Ed Pasche’s gaudily attractive “Elcina”, 1973.
During the tour, he talked about his negative experiences in art school. He said that his experiences with art theory stifled his creativity so much that he gave up painting for decades.
The music portion of the show was the highlight of the event. The energetic band included Langford on vocals and guitar, Sally Timms on vocals, Jean Cook on violin, Tony Maimone on bass, and Dan Massey on drums.
The group’s performance was engaging but slightly absurd. Punk rock songs were performed with violin accompaniment as well as country songs sung in a Welsh accent. The multi-ethnic group was dressed in flashy old-fashioned apparel and black pirate outfits.
The musical performance included songs drawing from different phases of Langford’s career, including his work with the Mekons, Waco Brothers, the Pine Valley Cosmonauts, and his solo work.
Some of the highlights included the downbeat, "Gallows Poll (Led Zepplin's version is folkier,), Never Been in a Riot (an answer song to the Clash's "White Riot."), and their signature song, "Punk Rock”.
In between numbers, Langford did biographical spoken word material chronicling his whole life from his experiences inn the punk scene and art school in Leeds to his move to Chicago.
During the show projected images of Langford's folky paintings appeared on a screen, along with clips of Langford reading poems on a children’s show in a fish shaped boat in a sink.
The vocalizing by Timms and Langford was not always attractive to the ear. However, the songs always sounded sincere and spirited.
In addition, show did a great job integrating all the art and musical elements. Overall, the show was provocative, entertaining and often humorous.
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