The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion


Wouldn’t it be just nice to burst in your boss/tutor/whoever-who-call-the shots’ office and shout out: “Blues explosion!”? And then, just to clarify your position in front of a very much likely puzzled face: “Uh!” “Ah!” “Oh, yeah!” “C’mon!” “Let’s GO!”

Yeahh… I picture the deliciously funny scene while I let myself hypnotise with the looping spirals on the two big screens displayed on both sides of the stage, upstairs at Sound Control, where Americans Jon Spencer Blues Explosion (JSBX) start to detonate an uncontrolled explosion of noisy, rowdy and sweaty blues rock.

The room is crowded and devoted, and JSBX immediately give us a non-stop burst of new and not-so-new songs in response. Beautifully messy. This voracious trio is back in town to disturb our minds with their latest album Freedom Tower. No Wave Dance Party 2015.

My friend wisely advises me not to put together in the same line the words ‘hip hop’ and ‘Jon Spencer’, but I’m a bloody journalist and I live fast and unconsciously. So, here it is: I think there’s some roaring hip-hop in this album (sorry, mate, I did it). In fact, it does make sense. JSBX is responsible for a faithful soundtrack of New York City. “Recorded at the legendary Daptone House Of Soul in Bushwick and mixed with hip-hop cult legend Alap Momin at the cutting edge of Harlem, ‘Freedom Tower’ is the most provocative statement of urban pathos and panache ever recorded”, as they claim. Take hasty songs such as ‘Funeral’, ‘Born Bad’ or ‘Dial Up Doll’, amongst many others.

To illustrate all those sounds of dirty blues, hectic punk-funk and a tribute nod to Fat Boys, the images on the big screens show vintage horror film scenes, dancing skeletons, exuberant strippers and fast cars crossing the sleepless, broad city. Is Fred Astaire also included in this raving mad mishmash video?

I think that the quite industrial atmosphere along the album also suits the wonderfully mad city where they are playing tonight. The only pause between songs like ‘Betty vs. The NYPD’, ‘She’s On It/Jack The Ripper’ or ‘Do the Get Down’ is an energising “Blues Explosion!” by Spencer, a shout that the crowd cheers more enthusiastically every time. “Say Blues Explosion! again!”, a member of the audience jokes about it later.

Photo by Francesca Notola

Photo by Francesca Notola

Sweat usually is a good rock barometer, and Jon Spencer sweats A LOT. Dressed in a quite gypsy shirt -which could be borrowed from Morrissey, he jumps on stage like a cricket and sweat rains copiously on the first row. Now on guitar, now on theremin, the microphone is basically in his mouth, as a way to amplify the beat within his body, perhaps. What a scenic creature, such an irreverent electric eel.

So yes, there’s a lot of glorious, pouring sweat and raw rock tonight. Loads of “Uh!-Ah!-Uh!-Ah!” throaty shouts as well –take the classic ‘She Said’.

Psycho-savage-look-like drummer Russell Simins and stormy bluesman guitarist Judah Bauer –nice voice too, by the way, add more fuel to an already high-octane, impulsive performance by Spencer.

Forget the setlist, it’s all about the mood, the metropolis’ eclosion. By the time the encore arrives, the room is melting down and no one can stand still. I take (and delight in) ‘Tales of the Old New York: The Rock Box’ as a frenzied ode to the Big Apple. Pointing at a beautiful tall couple, Spencer says that he likes what they’ve got. Me too. Blues Explosion!

Encore’s corner: MING CITY ROCKERS (DOLLS)

I leave my friends in the smoking yard talking about how to get into Frank Zappa and his broken-crystals-sound insane stuff. When I come back from the toilet, they’re discussing the lustful life of Mozart. My friends are so cool.

As cool as Ming City Rockers. This furiously young band is supporting JSBX tonight, and when they enter the stage abruptly, I’m astonished due to their outlandish look. Judging by the dangerously misleading first impressions, I think they may be a hybrid between the New York Dolls and Clockwork Orange. The frantic bassist proudly moves a carefully electrocuted hair and seems wanting to call people’s attention so badly. On the contrary, the so serious lead guitarist barely moves. She seems so focus on playing her best (which she does). She vaguely reminds me of Patti Smith’s Horses’ look. Lucky fresh three chords and straight to the point –thanks for that! Nice vocals and attitude by lead singer, fully equipped with guitar, harmonica and everything! I wonder whether they live up to their rocking clothing: yes, they sound reasonably well. Plus, it’s always inspiring to see a young band evoking the New York Dolls’ legacy.

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Amaia Santana

Good karma brought me here to Manchester, my second home, where you can stay healthy (despite the weather) and young forever, as you can breathe live music in every corner of the city. I do believe in the healing power of music (rock is my life vest) and I'd be so glad to share my passion with you rockers of the world!