The Skinny Magazine in Vancouver is LIVE - LOUD - LOCAL covering independent and touring music - Punk, Metal, Garage, Noise and Rock n Roll since 2008!


Jon Spencer Blues Explosion - tiina liimu photo

The Biltmore Cabaret - Wednesday November 14 2012

Was it the tequila or is the new stripped down and revved up JSBX just that good? The bombast and relentless chest-beating are gone. Only the heavy groove and the manic fury remain. Jon looks a little gaunt, older and wiser, like his band and his sound all the chrome removed to make it lean and mean.  The Biltmore was the perfect hideaway for this sweaty rebirth, low and dark; RL Burnside would have felt at home with his ass pocket of whisky (not a bad idea at those prices).

Openers Quasi hit a loose and joyful seam. Janet Weiss drumming was energetic and tasteful. Singer keyboardist Sam Coomes’ vox had maybe seen better nights, but the spirit was pure 90s exuberance. For some reason they had Judah Bauer minding their merch, armed with a pair of drumsticks. Is that Quasi vinyl or real vinyl?

Blues Explosion’s set underlined the return to roots with heavy lifts from the first four albums. Afro and Bellbottoms (as encore) were highlights of the old gold.  Lots of favourites were just touched on in medleys (now it’s Chicken Dog, now it’s gone) the purpose maybe to make room for the new album Meat and Bone, which they played most of and which fit seamlessly with the back catalogue. There were some great live-only moments too, like the cover of Beastie Boys “She’s On It” with the little fold into Link Wray’s “Jack the Ripper”.

But a dry rundown of the specs doesn’t touch a JSBX set: it’s all about the pure bangin’ energy, the Inca stonework tightness, Judah Bauer’s tasty jangle, Russell Simins relentless beat, Spencer’s reverb drenched howl and vacuum cleaner guitar tone. As a friend commented, they are a band that sounds like nobody but themselves, and the perfect soundtrack for a booze-fuelled hootenanny.

- Dave Bowes