The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion – East Wing, Brighton, UK (26 September 1994)

The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion show at East Wing, Brighton, UK on 26 September 1994.

Live Photo: Stephen Sweet
Review: David Bennun

The NME: Blew Up This Mornin’… feature is an interview from the day of this show.

Melody Maker Review (Dated 15 October 1994):

“The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion
Brighton Centre East Wing

JON Spencer has something he would like to tell us all about.
“The fabulous -” (ba-boom!)”- most groovy -” (Ba-boom!) “- bell-bottoms!” (gnrrrrrrtwangscree!)

For Christ’s sake, no, not bell-bottoms. Not more Seventies junk culture resuscitated, swabbed down with irony and nailed up above a flashing Applause light. Look, what was crap then is crap now. Please, no.
I don’t know where he picked up bell-bottoms from. I think he just liked the sound of it. Could have been knickerbockers, or plus-fours, or any other archaic schmutter. I don’t know what Jon Spencer thinks he’s doing, but I do know it’s way beyond a mere kitsch revival.

My guess is that he’s simply a hyperactive feedback-worshipper with a highly developed sense of humour. Which would explain why The Blues Explosion stage such loud, funny and invigorating gigs. Power blues groups to be called things like The Groundhogs or The Aynsly Dunbar Retaliation, and you can tell from their name alone that TJSBE are aware of this po-faced and hairy-celfted tradition. But Spencer is a thin, angular New Yorker with one of those cool edges that has never need resharpening; and the noise his band makes, although it is indeed blues, would send those old power trios screaming from the room. Why it doesn’t do the same to me and the rest of the audience is a moot point. Maybe we’re having too much fun to admit that it’s killing us.

The music is impossibly rough and raw, like having your ribs removed without anaesthetic. Spencer is an electrifying figure. He hurtles to and from the microphone, a human pinball. At one point, he is an electrified figure; when he attempts to use the arcane device set up beside the drumkit, it hurls him halfway across the stage in an instant. Nobody notices the difference.

This apparatus resembles an early wireless set customised for a particularly vicious torture freak by the addition of an ominous spoke and a curved, gleaming hook. It turns out to be a theremin, the proto-synthesiser employed by The Beach Boys pm “Good Vibrations”, and it blows the entire speaker stack, leaving the trio to encore with a drum barrage offset by claps and wolf whistles. Then Spencer and his guitar-mauling companion charge the drummer, leaving all three heaped amid a rubble of percussion. This so excites one punter that he too flings himself upon the drummer, who jettisons him from the stage in a fit of fury. The crowd parts as if commanded by Moses, and the hapless stage-invader hits the wooden floor with a noise too satisfying for mere words to describe.
I stopped laughing not long ago.
DAVID BENNUN.”

Melody Maker: Bang! Bang! You’re Cred (5 October 1996):

“The last time I saw The Blues Explosion play, in Brighton, they blew the power with their theremin and finished the set unplugged, still managing to create headlong cacophony. Then Jon hurled himself onto Russell’s drumkit.

“I don’t remember this at all,” admits Jon. “Brighton is in England, right? And, uh, I play the drums?”

“Yeah, I remember,” Judah reminds Russell. “Jon jumped onto your kit, then this guy came out of the audience and jumped on it as well.”

Russell threw the interloper back into the crowd, which parted like Moses had just waved his staff at it, and he described a perfect parabola before hitting the floor with a sadistically satisfying thump.

“THat’s the essence of it,” growls Russell. “I said, ‘Jon can jump on my kit, but not you.’ Did I really throw him off the stage?

Don’t get me angry. It’s like Max Weinberg [Drummer from Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band]. He got really annoyed when Mike D sat at his drumkit at the MTV awards; ‘NOBODY sits at my drums!'” – David Bennun / Melody Maker (16 October 1996)

The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion - East Wing, Brighton, UK (26 September 1994)

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