Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Irving Plaza, Pt. 1: Jon Spencer Blues, Too Much Exploding

Jon Spencer recorded an album called 'Acme'in 1998. To my mind this is one of the sexiest albums ever put down on wax. Or plastic. Or whatever the hell it is that CD's are made out of. Or the ether that the Internet works on.

Jon Spencer Blues Explosion have been around for a long time. I actually saw an early version of Pussy Galore, his band before he formed Blues Explosion, in Providence at one of the earliest concerts I ever attended. Shithaus headlined and gave one of the more bizarre performances I've seen to this day. They frantically raided the streets surrounding Lupo's Heartbreak Hotel (the original with the black and white tile floor) and gathered up 5 or 6 trash cans to be pounded on underneath the drone of their amplifiers.

That was in 1985. I wouldn't think about Jon Spencer again until 2000. Melody made a mix for me that included the song 'Do You Want to Get Heavy' on it. What a song. I am not even going to try and do it justice by describing it. Do yourself a favor and at least download that one song.

Melody had been living in New York for a few months when we heard that Jon Spencer Blues Explosion would be playing Irving Plaza. I was excited to witness Melody's first trip to Irving Plaza and connect it with the wonderful music she'd turned me onto.

We got all dolled up and rolled into the city from her Williamsburg apartment. It was almost a straight shot on the L to Irving Plaza and the subway clientele looked like a cross section of what we'd witness once we hit the club. Black dye. Aggressive piercing. Crisp shabby clothing. Chains connecting upper and lower body pockets. Cockeyed hats nestled on top of pick-up stix hair.

Compared to this crew I looked squaresville and Melody looked like a supermodel slumming it down with the real junkies. We giggled and babbled in anticipation of grooving out big time to the funky chunk and whirl of Jon Spencer Blues Explosion.

We were in for a rude awakening.

The album, as hard as it rocks in points, has a laid-back blur to it, with bits of electronic beats cutting the shotgun blast of his electric leads. Small burbles and beeps interrupt, as if someone were mashing up Led Zeppelin, John Lee Hooker, and the Sugarhill Gang.

We anticipated something hard edged, sure, but with some swing to it. Spencer took the stage in a tight pair of black leather pants. I had an immediate negative response to his attitude and demeanor. Even before he played a note. Melody felt the same. The band then proceeded to assault the crowd with volume and speed, leaving all nuance under the boot heel he'd so carefully tucked his shiny pants over.

We left about a half hour in. Neither of us are strangers to volume or speed, but we simply had had enough of his faux messianic turbo bullshit. It was exhausting, to be frank. Sometimes volume and speed can lead to a catharsis for the audience, the sense that the breakneck pace is a thrill ride offered to jolt you out of your quotidian humdrum. But this felt insular, hoarded from you as it was being doled out, a trick bowl that lets your soup drain out into your lap before you take a bite.

Nothing could kill that album for me, though. It comes on the random iPod shuffle and makes me want to light some candles, cook a nice meal, and take the first shuttle to groove town.

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