Jon Spencer has been slogging it out on the front line of the trashy garage war for so long he’s got foxholes named after him. As the primary or co-leader of vaunted groups like Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, Pussy Galore, Boss Hog, Heavy Trash and now the HITmakers, his resume is unassailable. He’s got his grimy fingerprints all over the spawn of great record labels like Crypt, Estrus, In The Red, Hozac… you name it. So, it was no surprise that a packed room greeted the ageless Spencer as he and his band took the stage on Friday night. You know what you’re in for with a Spencer show, and he always delivers the goods.
Assembling a new band for his new record, the HITmakers are notable including for Sam Coombes (Quasi) on keys and vocals, as well as sheet metal mangler Bob Bert. Seriously, have you ever seen anyone play percussion with a claw hammer? Or use an 18 wheeler suspension spring as a cymbal? His floor tom was a massive, beaten into many shapes metal trash can, and the main ‘drum’ was a giant gas tank that looked it The Hulk and The Thing used it as a stress ball. That what’s happens when you hit things with hammers! Spencer blasted through some of the new stuff, including the neanderthal stomp of “Do The Trash Can” and the staccato attack of “Beetle Boots,” he also teased with the intro to “Bellbottoms” and a full run-through of JSBE’s “Dang.” “Slacked off your ass. Dang, motherfucker!”
All the boxes were ticked… Spencer and band blasting out song after song like a mutated hybrid of young Elvis and Howlin’ Wolf on trucker speed, an obliquely targeted but highly entertaining between songs riff on Trump and the barn-burning set closing cover of “Roadrunner” was a cap to a great show. Then the encore happened. After a bit of fiddling with gear, the full-on power of Julie Cafritz was unleashed and improbably a nearly complete Pussy Galore mini set was in full swing… had Neil Hagerty ambled to the stage, most in attendance would have had a brain embolism. “Just Wanna Die,” “No Count” and “Fuck You, Man” (twice!) was raw rock fury, reduced to a black and sticky mess. Huzzah for rock and roll!
I got there pretty late but with enough time to see the last song of NYC-based Bodega, who have a more than passing familiarity with some of the NYC downtown pioneers like Richard Hell. They doled out a minimal punk rock blast with stand-up drummers and off-kilter guitar scrapes. Definitely one to watch.