Janet Klein and her boys
I was expecting Janet Klein to be a novelty act. She looks like she's been cut out of an ancient sepia photo, with her bob cut and flowers in her hair and she plays music from the early 20th century on a ukelele. I guess really it was the ukelele — nobody plays that without an ironic twinkle in their eye, do they? Klein, for sure, was going to be a comic interlude in a weekend of proper music.
But that's not quite how it was.
One of my fellow fujirockers once reviewed a Janet Klein album, saying: "the only thing missing is the hiss and crackle of the gramophone." It's the same live.
Three guys come out first - Colonel Sanders on a steel guitar, some kind of geography teacher with a violin, and a chap that looks like a proper muso on the double bass. They strike up a chirpy old tune that makes it sound like Klein will skip out in flickering monochrome with a flowing dress and big fluttery eyes. And except for the flickering monochrome, that's exactly what happens.
"I play old songs," said Janet. "Old songs from the 1920s and '30s. That's where I come from." She sounded like she was reading a disclaimer. Perhaps she was worried the audience think she was playing it wrong. But they loved it.
Colonel Sanders began whistling, and Janet sang a ditty about whether or not whistling makes you crazy. It doesn't, she reckoned.
Then Janet leaned into the audience and yelled "Fuck the US government and their tools of oppression" before launching into a cover of the Sex Pistols' "Belsen Was a Gas." No, of course she didn't. She sang a song with gentle innuendos questioning the virtues of Little Red Riding Hood.
It becomes clear that despite the costumes and the giggling and the wide-eyed fluttering, Janet Klein and her Parlor Boys are perfectly serious. And they made me think: If someone plays music from the '70s it's retro; from the 1770s and it's classic, but somehow the 1920s seems like it's a gimmick. One live show will sort out that misconception. It's a jolly afternoon of jazz in the Orange Court. As Janet says, "Whoopeeee!"
photos by Tsuyoshi Ikegami
Reported by Don Coglione (2008.07.30 / 14:06)