Jon Spencer Blues Explosion Warehouse Live Studio May 5, 2011
A few months back, when the White Stripes finally officially broke up, Aftermath made the inference that had it not been for the duo that most of the new rock music hitting the charts, namely the rootsy and blues stuff, would not be as well-received.
In our haste to write an epitaph, we forgot about the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion's role before the Stripes even hit British rock magazines.
Formed in 1991, the JSBX would rule for the better part of the next decade. The punk-blues band would be one of the '90s' preeminent hipster acts, embodying the fuck-it-all attitude onstage, hair flailing, crowds ecstatic. Live footage from the 1991 to the early '00s has them smoking most chic grunge bands off the stage, as their volatile mixture of punk, blues, and hardcore aggression gained them fans for life.
According to Songkick, one of their last gigs here was at the Vatican with The Jesus Lizard in 1992, a concept that is almost too much for us to bear. How did anyone live to tell about it?
Last night's show inside the studio space at Warehouse Live was full of people who more than likely were probably at that show. The crowd was dotted with Verbal Abuse and Scratch Acid shirts, weird tattoos, and thinning gray hair.
We saw a lot of male house-cats out for the night who looked like they are two steps or two songs away from quitting their office jobs and going back to their shift at the vintage clothing store and growing their mutton chops back out.
Bathed in a seedy red light, the JSBX went off on the crowd with everything from their arsenal, from the breakthrough "Wail" to "Bellbottoms" from 1994's Orange. Opening cut "Bent" could be a lost Stooges outtake.
The trio of Spencer - a vet of the beloved Pussy Galore, JSBX concurrent thang Boss Hog and now rockabilly trio Heavy Trash - drummer Russell Simins, and second guitarist Judah Bauer look no worse for wear 20 years since their debut. Spencer managed to jump and jive in his silver jeans.
Standing inside the band's world for nearly two hours reminds you how much energy like this is missed.
It's primal, ballsy, and compact. The JSBX always existed in this confined area in music, but that didn't make it any less accessible.
Plenty of modern bands are trying the JSBX template now, and a plethora of fun things are coming out of that, just like at Houston's own mighty Cutters. Lo-fi punk-blues will never die. Blues explosion! The Blues is No. 1!
Personal Bias: This, in junior high.
The Crowd: Man, '90s hipsters go harder than today's crop. Except for our friend Pedro that walked onto the stage and scared the shit out of Spencer.
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!
Overseen In the Crowd: A drunk pair of girls paying one of the custodial staff a few bucks to take their picture next to fire extinguisher.
Random Notebook Dump: Sideburns.