The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion at Pitchfork Music Festival 2010: Live review
Photos: Dana Loftus
It was Blues Explosion time, and not a moment too soon. I, for one, took some aspects of the ’90s for granted, among them the reliably amazing Jon Spencer Blues Explosion. The trio rocked harder, bluesier and with a stronger retro shtick than any other flagship acts of the top dog indie label of the era, Matador. The band's, or the man's, throwback showmanship was something we counted on for an occasional fix (sometimes on New Year's Eve). Entire music careers and greasy haircuts were launched aping Spencer's moves. I won't name names.
This evening, with tunes we know and love from Orange, Extra Width and (I'm fairly sure) some obscurities from its Crypt catalog, the Blues Explosion came on like a rock 'n' roll hurricane whirling in an assured musicality—expressive instrumental prowess can be something of a rarity at Pitchfork where the bands are often young. The band's primary assets, Spencer's roadhouse howl, Judah Bauer's southern gentleman licks and the brute force of beater Russell Simins have, somewhat miraculously, grown richer and more flavorful with age. Even something such as "Bellbottoms" may have lost its time-stamped retro novelty, but its riffs have somehow gained greater integrity. A Blues Explosion song can be a little silly, but its music is never jokey. Spencer and Co. owned their sound more than any band I had seen before them at Pitchfork. JSBX finally seem of a piece with an American music heritage rather that snot-nosed students of it—that, let's be honest, they once were. If ’90s act reunions are to continue, Spencer's trio has set the bar ridiculously high.
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