Punk Pioneer Jon Langford Paints In Country Colors
The phrase "renaissance man" is so overused that coin has lost most of its value. But Jon Langford -- artist, musician, playwright, radio disc jockey, songwriter, death-penalty opponent, punk rock pioneer, and philanthropist who rolls into the Continental Club Saturday with his ragtag ensemble of misfits the Waco Brothers -- fits the bill as well as anyone.
Photo courtesy of Bloodshot Records
A founding member of seminal UK punk band the Mekons, Welsh-born Langford calls Chicago home these days, although he spends considerable time in Austin due to his association with South Congress art gallery Yard Dog, where his paintings of the heroes of American music are usually on display. He's also had a long association with Chicago alt-country label Bloodshot Records, and his paintings now appear on certain bottles of Dogfish Head Brewery ale.
Thoughtful, philosophical and funny, Langford laughs at Rocks Offs first query: When he rolls out of bed in the morning, does he consider himself a painter or a musician?
"I've just come back from my tax advisor," Langford laughs, "and according to him I'm exactly half of both. I love painting, but you have to understand that is quite a solitary endeavor, and I'm really a rather gregarious type of guy, I like people. So I enjoy the painting, but I also enjoy the fact that I can go get rowdy with these guys at night if I want."
Langford has ventured south for his annual fall show at Yard Dog and, with old musical conspirator Dean Schlabowske having moved from Chicago to Austin, "It just made sense for us to do some dates down here."
"It's been a while since we played Houston," Langford notes, "so we thought why not book ourselves into the Continental in Houston as well as in Austin, and it just worked out."
Not only will Langford be doing a full Waco Brothers show, there will also be sets by Schlabowdke's band Deano and the Purvs, a few solo shots by Langford, and a blast of poetic Beefheartian blues-rock from Joe Doerr's ace band, Churchwood. As for whether he prefers a band setting or doing his own thing, Langford laughs again.
"Going solo, especially on a tour, I find rather lonesome and a bit confining," he says. "At the same time, the economics of touring with a band these days are almost prohibitive. I was talking to Nick Lowe about this and he said 'I can either go out and make a decent living playing solo or I can be an impoverished bandleader.'
"Still, going out solo only does it for so long for me," Langford swears. "And we all love to play together, so we want to do all the Wacos gigs we can as long as it makes sense."
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