“You will be sufficiently caught up in the essential absurdity of violence, any violence, to look at it in a new light.” —Chicago Sun-Times
Best known as the front man for the Mekons,
has created a mordantly beautiful performance work—
The Executioner’s Last Songs
—that is a compelling collection of tales and songs on the themes of murder, mob law, and cruel, cruel punishment. Langford takes us on a twisting and witty autobiographical ride that looks unflinchingly at the promises of life and the penalty of death Friday–Saturday, February 10–11, at 8 pm in the Walker Art Center’s William and Nadine McGuire Theater. The performance combines live music, spoken word, his own visual art, and recordings of American roots music. One of the most resilient pop-punk bandleaders to emerge from Britain in the 1970s, Langford has since become a leading force in alt-country music with the Waco Brothers, the Pine Valley Cosmonauts, and others. Here he is joined by Sally Timms (Mekons), bassist Tony Maimone (Pere Ubu), violinist Jean Cook, and drummer Dan Massey.
Co-commissioned by Walker Art Center in partnership with Alverno College and the National Performance Network Creation Fund.
Somewhat of a Renaissance man, Langford is a founding member of the influential punk band the Mekons, but has had his hands in many other projects as well as being a prolific and respected visual and comic artist. Langford put together the Mekons in Leeds, England, in 1976 and has had a steady output with that band since, as well as guesting on dozens of recordings from Dutch punk band the Ex to Austin, TX, legend Alejandro Escovedo. Langford founded his first side project to the Mekons in 1982 with the inception of the Three Johns, which lasted until the early 1990s, when Langford relocated to Chicago where he formed the underground country-punk group the Waco Brothers and the Pine Valley Cosmonauts, an outlet for excursions into performing and honoring music written by others. He soon became a sort of father figure to the Chicago music scene, nurturing many of his labelmates on Bloodshot Records and championing anyone who he thought worthy of scrutiny, often lending his services as a musician or visual artist or inviting local musicians to guest on his releases. Langford released his first official solo album, Skull Orchard, in 1998, and followed it eight years later with his sophomore release, All the Fame of Lofty Deeds, in 2004—in between which he released no less than 11 other albums via other projects.
Tickets to Jon Langford The Executioner’s Last Songs are $20 ($16 Walker members) and are available by contacting the Walker Art Center box office at 612.375.7600 or walkerart.org/tickets.
Gallery Talk: Jon Langford
Thursday, February 9
Bazinet Garden Lobby, 7 pm FREE
Follow along as punk rock turned alt-country legend Jon Langford gives his two cents on the artworks in the galleries, accompanies by curator Elizabeth Carpenter. Also a painter and comic book artist, Langford discusses influences on his work and muses on ways that his current performance piece The Executioner’s Last Songs stares down the age-old issue of violence and the law.
Jon Langford: A Solo Exhibition
February 8–March 18
Rogue Buddha Gallery, 357 13th Avenue NE, Minneapolis
This exhibition presents Langford’s multilayered paintings, which borrow imagery from old country music publicity photos and sheet music. Langford reinterprets these images with a haze of ironic nostalgia. Curated by Kevin Quandt.