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Review: Jon Spencer Blues Explosion at the Crocodile

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JSBX at the Croc

The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion Filled the Crocodile last Tuesday, November 13, with some of Seattle’s most ardent JSBX fans. The opening act was Quasi, out of Portland. Less than a minute into the first song, Singer Sam Coomes was playing his keyboard with his foot. His keyboard was clearly labeled as “FRAGILE.” Someone was breaking the rules.

Quasi is intense, loud. You think they’re garage, and they are, but then the harmonies between the two (Janet Weiss on drums and vocals) show the different places they go. Hints of Pixies, Flaming Lips — when Coomes gets up to play guitar, it gets more rock and roll. And then things got a bit out of hand. There was a guy in the audience by the stage that started to mess with his gear. He pulled on a cable, and when the band got justifiably angry about it there was some back and forth. After things settled down, Quasi played their tightest and bluesiest song of the night. They only played a few more after that. It seems clear that they cut things a bit short, which is too bad. Between the circus of Coomes literally jumping up and down on top of his keyboard and the great music they were making, it’s a shame they walked off (presumably angry.)

Jon Spencer does his audience the courtesy of wearing leather pants and being awesome. He and Judah and Russell have been doing this a long time, and they know that it takes sweat. They arrive on stage and already the air is full of sparks, feedback waiting to happen. Mostly Spencer’s vocals exist as reverb, as gnarled fitful ash flicks from the cigarettes. His Elvis patois wears sincerity like James Brown’s cape. The following words sail past the monitors: “Sex, Blues Explosion, Rock & Roll” JSBX played a nice long set, with encores. Moments were sublime.

Jon Spencer does his audience the courtesy of howling like a monster while rivers of perspiration prove that what’s happening on stage isn’t easy. Everything exists behind the persona of the songs. There’s no reason to suspect that anywhere underneath there is anything but more blues explosion. He’s not going to break to say thanks for coming out on a Tuesday. What he and the other two do instead is play like heroes. They melt faces with layers of screams and reverb, and then, presumably, fall into heaps backstage, victorious.