Jon Spencer named his band the Blues Explosion, but it was never about the blues. With Judah Bauer and Russell Simins, Spencer tapped into the vein of the truest American roots music — plantation, country, rockabilly, and 1950s rock. It wasn’t hard to miss the imprint of devilish beings such as Son House or Jerry Lee Lewis or even Little Richard on Spencer, even as the Blues Explosion’s guitars howled through ragged amplifiers turned up to full power and Spencer sang like a haunted man.
“What set us apart from all the other punk rock or indie bands,” Spencer says by phone from his home in New York, “is that we were getting up onstage and working hard and putting on a show.” He laughs. “It’s not like we could just phone it in.” Spencer started the Blues Explosion in the early 1990s. By the end of 2005, the band had run out of gas. This year, the trio has reunited to tour behind Dirty Shirt Rock N’ Roll: The First Ten Years, a 22-track retrospective. “I’m really struck with how busy we were,” says Spencer.
Through all those years of manic energy, is there a common thread? Spencer responds, “Freedom. There was kind of a light element to it, you know, and some of the stuff had a sense of humor. It was alive. I think that proved to be confusing to some critics.” It was. And what a lot of the music press often missed through the years is that the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion is a tight and structured band. “If you can’t dance to it, it’s an interesting exercise, but it’s not really worth that much, at least for me. I’m a fan of rock and roll.”
The Dabbers and Heavy Young Heathens also perform.
JON SPENCER BLUES EXPLOSION: Belly Up Tavern, Sunday, October 3, 8 p.m. 858-481-8140. $16; $18 day of show.