Since busting outta the mean streets of New York back in 1991, the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion have been extolling their gnarly garage-blues hybrid to a rabid core following of disciples and throwbacks, and tonight they bring their no wave dance party to a comfortably three quarter filled Zoo.
With the band's original three members still intact, their almost 25 years of playing together ensures that this trio are sharp, tight and very very alright! The bands punk, art rock and no wave backgrounds (as part of Pussy Galore and the Honeymoon Killers amongst others) ensure that they pay homage to the purer strains of blues, rock and roll and rockabilly with enough warped originality and clout to make the sum of the parts much more than mere pastiche or watered down nostalgia.
Jon Spencer is the ringmaster of the whole shebang, yelping, grimacing, preaching and sweating out the good stuff, channeling James Brown and RL Burnside through a mutant filter of stinging New York garage scuzz. His trusty henchmen Judah Bauer flails, grooves and whoops away on rhythm guitar while the bear like Russell Simmons pounds the living bejesus out of his minimalist drum kit.
With such an extensive back catalogue to choose from the highlights fly by thick and fast, with Chicken Dog, Get Down Lover and I Wanna Make It Alright all getting an appreciative airing. Here to plug their most recent record Freedom Tower - No Wave Dance Party 2015, it's no surprise to see this record heavily represented tonight, with The Ballad of Joe Buck and Cooking For Television sounding particularly meaty.
A tough as teak take on early Beastie Boys track She's On It slots delightfully into the set about half way through, and they revisit their punked-up past on the frenetic Identify, Spencer's bug-eyed hollering matching the bands ferocious attack. He is very much the boss-man, sporadically letting loose on the theramin and truncating crowd fave Wail, from their killer 90's record Now I Got Worry, three quarters of the way through to morph into a homage to his home town.
Their initial 50 minute set flies by all too fast. The crowd want much more and the trio do not disappoint, returning for an extended 20 minute encore including Blowing My Mind and Fuck Shit Up, titles that aptly describe the JSBX live experience and leave all and sundry on an adrenaline charged buzz.
The one downer on the night was the criminally early slot afforded to Brisvegas rock-meisters Hits, whose no doubt brilliant set I missed on account of them finishing by the very un-rock and roll time of 9pm…
By Anthony Gebhardt