Jon Langford AND THE SADIES with Bob Egan and Precious Little at the Horseshoe (370 Queen West), Saturday (February 2). $8. 416-598-4753.
according to jon langford's bestrecollection, there've been at least four occasions when the Horseshoe pencilled in a gig by one of his various combos -- the Mekons, Waco Brothers, Pine Valley Cosmonauts -- that would later be cancelled under mysterious circumstances. So even though the show Saturday (February 2) is confirmed and a contract has been signed in his Welsh blood, people are still skeptical about whether the Chicago alt-country linchpin will actually appear.
The Sadies are certainly counting on it, since besides working as Langford's backing band for the night they're also planning to record a collaborative album while he's in town. As for Langford, he swears what happened in the past won't happen again. And what was that, then?
"Each time I've made plans to play a show in Toronto, somebody's gotten themselves into trouble," explains Langford without getting into the details. "The best way around that was to come by myself, so that's what's happening this time."
He's not coming alone. Langford is bringing a set of reproductions of his now famous, politically incisive portraits of country music stars of the golden era, which will be on display in the Horseshoe's front bar.
Langford gave up art studies at university when punk rock beckoned. His heavily glazed paintings of popular entertainers like Johnny Cash, Hank Williams and Loretta Lynn are based on publicity photographs, but, according to Langford, the compromising contexts in which they're often depicted are drawn from personal record-biz experience.
He was doing portraits of country artists as gifts for friends when someone with gallery connections in Chicago offered him a show.
"It seemed like a good way for me to use art to comment on the music industry. A lot of early paintings like Hank Williams signing a contract were really autobiographical. Some of the most pivotal moments in my life came around signing contracts. As soon as you get involved with people who are thinking about what you're doing for their own reasons, that's when things begin to fall apart.
"I've had a few disastrous run-ins with major labels, but I'm not bitter, OK? I am not fucking bitter, and you can print that!"