Nobody says "baby" quite like Jon Spencer. And few people say it as often.The irrepressible Spencer, a 20-year veteran of the underground rock scene, says the word like a call to arms: "BAY-uh-BAY!" Sometimes it'll be a few quick shouts of "BAY-buh" until he hits that big one, but it's always something to behold.
Spencer brought his latest band, Heavy Trash, to the Rock & Roll Hotel on Wednesday night, and while the group's souped-up rockabilly tunes were plenty pleasing, it was Spencer's antics that proved most memorable.
Spencer is best known for the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, his trio that was more Elvis doing punk rock than anything having to do with the blues. There's not nearly as much shtick going on in Heavy Trash; the band is more of a straight tribute to rockabilly and the earliest rock-and-roll. "Crazy Pritty Baby" may as well be an Eddie Cochran song, and the galloping drums and walking stand-up bass lines on most songs were straight out of the 1950s. It's not hard to envision Heavy Trash being cast as the house band at a juke joint in a Coen Brothers film.
Heavy Trash followed its 40-minute set with an encore that was almost equal in length. That was when Spencer let loose, taking on the identity of some sort of rockabilly preacher. Individual songs became harder to discern and the show took on a revival feel, with Spencer leaning off the stage to shout, "This day is mine!" and "I still believe in the tooth fairy!" and "We got to get together!" And when he couldn't come up with anything else, there was always the old reliable.
-- David Malitz (Sept. 2007)