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All words: Paula Mejia

Formerly the ringleader of fuzz heroes Pussy Galore, Jon Spencer created the Blues Explosion in the early ‘90s, capturing a sound that was part blues, part experimental freakout. The melding of genres with Jon Spencer Blues Explosion — with everything from punk to blues, to psychedelic to noise — makes the band unclassifiable, as well as an unpredictable, engaging listen.

Headlining an early night at U Street Music Hall, the trio took the stage promptly at 8:30. The basement space, although bizarre to think about at first (seeing how U Street’s usual suspects embody the likes of House, Dubstep, Moombahton nights, etc), was conducive to the band’s aesthetic, emulating the sort of grimy basements the trio first began performing in years before. Add to that sharp leather jackets and a don’t give a shit attitude, the trio defines rock n’ roll.

Right from the beginning, the trio broke into loud, fast and gritty rock n’ roll, mixing in distortion-laded riffs from Judah Bauer’s guitar and punk-paced drumming from Russel Simins. Live, Jon Spencer is a showstopper. A menacing snarl on his face, Spencer
growls into the microphone while making direct eye contact with his audience, with both a sultry and disturbing tone carrying his vocals to fill a room entirely. His voice oscillates from the lowest octaves to spine-jolting shrieks, jolting the audience members from ever slipping into passivity.

Sound-wise, the songs came mostly from the trio’s newest Meat and Bone, with “Black Thoughts” as a particularly groovy highlight. Seamlessly shifting between psychedelia, punk rock and blues — with barely any breaks between songs, rendering the performance as a sort of singular burst of sound — had this sort of preternatural effect on a transfixed audience. It was like that epiphany moment you had listening to Raw Power for the first time as a teenager, reminding you of the awe-inspiring effect that a band can have on you.

As the show progressed, Spencer’s vocal inflections became much more scattered into yelps, peppering in the mantra-like yelp of “Blues explosion!” every so often, revving the distortion to a constant fuzz. Closing out with “Bellbottoms,” the trio looked back, a raving audience crying for more. Proof, indeed, that rock n’ roll lives on.

Setlist:

1, Chicken Dog
2. Strange Baby
3. Black Mold
4. Bag of Bones
5. She’s On It
6. Soul Typecast
7. Zimgar
8. Bellbottoms (Intro)
9. 2 Kindsa Love / [Unknown]
10. No Reservations
11. Ice Cream Killer
12. Unclear
13. Get Your Pants Off
14. Shirt Jac
15. Black Thoughts
16. Feeling of Love
17. Danger
18. Greyhound
19. Bellbottoms

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