Turn that camera OFF
April 6, 2014 10:32 AM   Subscribe

The Jon Spenser Blues Explosion was (is) a groundbreaking rock and roll band (not a blues band) well known for its live performances. Not much video footage of their concerts is extant, but this performance on an Australian TV show in 1994 is pretty typical, if the word "typical" is suitable for someone trying to incite a riot. posted by Potomac Avenue (39 comments total) 37 users marked this as a favorite

 
Was?! Uh oh.

Probably the first CD I remember buying was one of theirs. And now I'm in a band with a theremin player. I've come full circle.

Seen 'em in Denver, Seen 'em in Paris. Never thought their live show was all that great (maybe I missed the hey-day), but the MUSIC is what rock 'n roll SHOULD be and follows (my own) law of, The More Minimal The Drumkit, The Better the Music. See also: Cramps. Although my bands has more drums than you could shake a sti-- OK enough drums where you can shake many sticks at, potentially two per cluster of drums.
posted by alex_skazat at 10:52 AM on April 6, 2014 [2 favorites]


They're still around and still rock, but have mellowed a little, as we do.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 10:56 AM on April 6, 2014


Honest question: How come so many modern rock bands have given up on bass players? Is it a trend, an aesthetic, or are good bass players really that hard to find?
posted by Devils Rancher at 11:01 AM on April 6, 2014


There's also the (non-live) video for Talk About The Blues which inexplicably-but-delightfully features Winona Ryder and John C. Reilly as Jon Spencer and Russell Simins respectively.
posted by usonian at 11:04 AM on April 6, 2014 [3 favorites]


Also non-live, but here is perhaps my favorite - Jon Spenser Blues Explosion with Beck, Mike D, and a hint of Flavor Flav - Flavor
posted by chambers at 11:12 AM on April 6, 2014


Definitely definitely Spencer. Definitely definitely awesome post. Thank you.
posted by motty at 11:21 AM on April 6, 2014 [6 favorites]


Was?! Uh oh.

Eh, yeah, pretty much a "was" for me for everything after Orange. Still a good band but not that band.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 11:21 AM on April 6, 2014 [1 favorite]


Bellbottoms, yeah!

Love, love, love the Blues Explosion.
posted by arcticseal at 11:43 AM on April 6, 2014 [1 favorite]


Honest question: How come so many modern rock bands have given up on bass players? Is it a trend, an aesthetic, or are good bass players really that hard to find?

Don't let it scare you.
posted by Sys Rq at 11:47 AM on April 6, 2014 [8 favorites]


Seen them twice. Really great shows. One of them, their opening act was Mr. Quintron, which was one of the best shows I've ever seen.
posted by broken wheelchair at 11:53 AM on April 6, 2014 [3 favorites]


Definitely definitely Spencer

DOH
posted by Potomac Avenue at 12:04 PM on April 6, 2014


Honest question: How come so many modern rock bands have given up on bass players? Is it a trend, an aesthetic, or are good bass players really that hard to find?

I think it's a special case of the "deconstructed rock band" approach of '90s garage-punk/garage-revival. You want the primitiveness of those gaps that a traditional bass would fill in. The Gories and the Oblivians also both got a lot of mileage out of the two-guitar-no-bass attack. Then, of course, it at some point became a conventionally unconventional thing to do.
posted by batfish at 12:06 PM on April 6, 2014 [3 favorites]


Not to be confused with the John and Spencer Booze Explosion.
posted by dortmunder at 12:07 PM on April 6, 2014


Once counted how many times Jon used the phrase "blues explosion" during a 75-minute or so live set a few years back: around 32...
posted by AJaffe at 12:09 PM on April 6, 2014 [3 favorites]


I think it's a special case of the "deconstructed rock band" approach of '90s garage-punk/garage-revival.

FWIW, in Canadian indie circles, the trend -- two bands is a trend, right? -- went the other way.
posted by Sys Rq at 12:21 PM on April 6, 2014 [2 favorites]


> Honest question: How come so many modern rock bands have given up on bass players?

As long as you have something marking time with a low-end thud. The kick on a drum kit can work, and it means not having to hire another musician.
posted by ardgedee at 12:22 PM on April 6, 2014


Hey, I was in the audience in both French TV videos.
The show supporting Now I Got Worry at the Bataclan in Paris was the most memorable Rock & Roll experience I ever had. RL was opening for the Blues Explosion and he came back for the encore, with all the lights on, that was just amazing.
And the show itself was just really really awesome.
posted by briac at 12:52 PM on April 6, 2014 [2 favorites]


with all the lights on,

I think that was a JSBE staple.
I've written about it before but at the best show I ever saw them play they started their 2nd encore after about 15minutes of people filing out with the lights on and the place just turned into glorious beer soaked chaos. It was totally boners.

(yes i meant bonkers but got autocorrected and I do not care)
posted by Potomac Avenue at 12:57 PM on April 6, 2014 [6 favorites]


An Ivy League "Blues" band? Spare me, please.
posted by TSOL at 1:38 PM on April 6, 2014


LOL says the guy named after the band that brought Casio keyboards to LA hardcore.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 1:47 PM on April 6, 2014 [11 favorites]


Fuck shit up. I love Jon for what he did during an episode of 120 Minutes, which is take over the set and turn it into a jam session. I think he was wearing a Santa hat.
posted by ostranenie at 2:26 PM on April 6, 2014


I always wanted to call a band "The John Ritter Blues Explosion."
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 2:31 PM on April 6, 2014 [2 favorites]


Seen them twice. Really great shows. One of them, their opening act was Mr. Quintron, which was one of the best shows I've ever seen.

Yes. Everyone go see Quintron. I've seen him open up for the Cramps at your local theatre, and also headline your local underground music venue. So good, such a nice guy.
posted by alex_skazat at 4:02 PM on April 6, 2014 [1 favorite]


Honest question: How come so many modern rock bands have given up on bass players? Is it a trend, an aesthetic, or are good bass players really that hard to find?

See also: The Cramps (most lineups, anyways)
posted by alex_skazat at 4:05 PM on April 6, 2014


and it means not having to hire another musician.

That's what I figured. If you can make enough noise as a two or three person band, why add another member to split up the pie even further? It's hard enough to make money as a musician.
posted by octothorpe at 4:59 PM on April 6, 2014


Metafilter: totally boners

I like that phrase much better than "boyzone"
posted by msalt at 5:01 PM on April 6, 2014 [1 favorite]


saw these guys at...axis? on landsdowne street in boston sometime in the late 90s.

take it from a guy who's seen phish 30 times over two decades and saw the flaming lips touring after yoshimi: JSBX were one of the greatest things ever to hit the stage.

they rocked you so you stayed rocked.

'i may be three feet, but i'll kick all three feet of me IN YOUR ASS.'
posted by waxbanks at 5:43 PM on April 6, 2014 [1 favorite]


Sys Rq
Canadian indie circles may be responsible for the guitar-drums indie-blues duo: Deja Voodoo
posted by jeffen at 6:23 PM on April 6, 2014


Holy shit a Deja Voodoo video. Oh its an upload of their music. Even that's hard to find! Man they are great.

Someday I'll make a No Bass Band post and make Deja Voodoo the centerpiece along with Los Mauraders.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 6:54 PM on April 6, 2014


@Waxbanks I also saw them in the late 90s, touring Orange, downstairs at the Middle East (just over the river in Cambridge MA USA, for those that don't know). One of the best shows I've ever I seen. It felt like the audience was totally lost in the music, I remember it as just being absolutely 1 with the band and music. It was bordering on a religious experience for me.
posted by askmehow at 7:11 PM on April 6, 2014 [1 favorite]


Jon Spencer with his wife's band Boss Hogg, mixing it up with Cibo Matto in a small Lawrence club in '96 was a beautifully transcendent experience. Think my ears are still ringing from it 20 years later. That and the other Blues Explosion concerts were the best live shows in the 90's on this side of Crash Worship (who are probably deserving of their own FPP).

Crash Worship introduced me to Mr. Quintron and Miss Pussycat (and her handmade puppets), and they are also just amazing. Glad to see they recovered from Katrina and are still performing.
posted by honestcoyote at 8:49 PM on April 6, 2014


but there was just something about seeing JSBX in the 90s that is hard to capture, but impossible to forget.

So true. I was at one of their shows back then when a pipe broke overhead. I was having such a good time it took me longer than it should have to realize that it wasn't a water pipe I was dancing under.

My sadly insufficient effort at washing my hair in the bathroom sink at a dive bar is definitely in the "impossible to forget" category.
posted by asperity at 8:58 PM on April 6, 2014 [2 favorites]


They are on tour in the US and Europe for the next seven weeks.

I didn't know Jon Spencer was in Pussy Galore until I read his Wikipedia page last week. It's a small world!
posted by asok at 1:40 AM on April 7, 2014


R.L Burnside A Ass Pocket of Whiskey

A Ass Pocket of Whiskey is a collaborative album by the American Mississippi Hill Country Bluesman R. L. Burnside and the American punk blues band Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, released on Matador Records on 18 June 1996.
posted by incandissonance at 6:52 AM on April 7, 2014


An Ivy League "Blues" band?

If it wasn't for legacy admissions, I wouldn't have had no luck at all
posted by thelonius at 7:32 AM on April 7, 2014


The Ivy League country band, "Westchester County Line", is also pretty great
posted by thelonius at 7:40 AM on April 7, 2014


So I was excited to see a post on JSBX. They were the first band I ever saw in a live venue, and my enjoyment of it is part of why I kept going to see shows even though I didn't have any friends that liked to go see live music.

A couple of years ago I started to learn to play the drums. Before then I hadn't really paid much attention to drum parts as separate from the rest of a song. Russell Simins has quickly become my favorite drummer. His groove is unbelievable, and he has mastered the simplicity necessary when you are the whole rhythm section. Instead of fills, he uses changes to the rhythm he is playing rather than fills to give the songs interest.

I checked the list of videos right away to see if they had the ones on fdsessions.com (#79). I can't link to the session but they are on youtube here:

Burn It Off
Rock Hard (Alex Chilton cover)
Honey Bee
Blues Explosion Man

It is an 'acoustic' style session, though they play electric guitars. Simins plays a cardboard box with a badminton racket.

After that I looked at the rest of the videos more closely. I saw 'Norman" and I thought "I was probably at that one" and clicked on it. Then I saw the date, December 5, 1993. Three days after my 21st birthday. Holy fucking shit, this is the first gig I ever went to. It was at what used to be the Satellite Theater, right next to the University of Oklahoma residence halls.

I had just turned 21, but I looked about 17. I would go to OU later on, but at that time I had only been there a few times, and the only schools I had been to were community colleges and a tiny school in the middle of the desert. I knew nobody, I had no idea what to wear, and I was terrified.

Because I didn't know any better and I wasn't sure where it was located, I thought I should get there well before the starting time. Needless to say I was practically there by myself. Since it was the 90s, they were selling smart drinks. I had no idea (and to be honest, I still don't) what they were, so I didn't buy anything. I found a seat up on top some kind of packing crate and waited an interminably long time. Then the band came out. Spencer was wearing the same shirt he had worn on the 'Afro' video I had seen him wear on their video on 120 minutes. I wondered if that was all he ever wore.

And then I was rocked.

And now, 20 years later, I get to see it again. Of course the energy can't really be caught on VHS tape. But it is truly amazing to have an event I have long treasured available to me again. Just when I think I'm old and jaded and the internet isn't going to surprise me any more, I'm proven wrong. Thanks Potomac Avenue, for putting this post together.
posted by Quonab at 10:57 AM on April 7, 2014 [3 favorites]


Here's Jon Spencer introducing himself and playing the theremin in the wonderful Matador Records promo video anthology (hosted by Bill Boggs in a kid show format) called "What's Up Matador."
posted by chambers at 11:20 AM on April 7, 2014 [1 favorite]


Just wanted to add to the nods to Quintron. Caught them by accident one hot July night in Houston and could not believe what I was hearing. That guy was over the top, in your face and unbelievably good. You couldn't keep from dancing.

That had to be almost twenty years ago. Glad to hear they're still around.
posted by atchafalaya at 11:34 AM on April 7, 2014


« Older "What would work even against an infosec guy?...   |   It was forty years ago today... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments