Matson on Music
Old people party: Jon Spencer and Quasi at the Crocodile
If you were skeptical about their Rolling Stones-ish appropriation of blues music, or white people in general doing/stealing black art, Jon Spencer Blues Explosion gave a perfect opportunity for reflecting on the issue Tuesday night at the Crocodile, during a version of "She's On It" by the Beastie Boys. Covering a party-hardy song by hip-hop's appropriation-kings felt like a nod to the whole Stones/Elvis concept. And what happens when a white band who stole blues music covers a white band who stole hip-hop? Do brains blow up?
No, they do not. Because in the moment, the music was the thing. It was all-consuming. And it didn't feel like stealing. It felt like raw, electric, rockin' blues with excellent guitar playing. Spencer and Judah Bauer riffed tightly and the crowd went wild.
Energy and musicianship were the best parts of an hour-long show from the veteran New York City band. They performed with the passion of younger players and the skill of older ones.
There were snide remarks to be made about the advanced age of the musicians and audience in the packed room, and their horrible fashion senses — so many unbuttoned shirts and garments tied around waists, and Spencer's skintight pants with neon green stitching were unforgivable. But you know what? Whatever. People get old. They wear bad pants. They slip into self parody and don't know it. But Blues Explosion isn't embarrassing, actually. They're somewhere else. Filling their cultural niche.
And yes, they played their song "No Reservations" — the theme for Anthony Bourdain's TV show of the same name.
One thing about opening act Quasi, from Portland, Ore.: I never realized the duo was such a bar band! Not in a bad way. I just remembered songs like "California" being much more precious when I listened to them in college, when "indie rock" was still a thing (RIP indie rock 1982-2008 — it was a good run). They played piano pop but the presentation was very heavy and bluesy. At one point singer/keyboardist/guitarist Sam Coomes (formerly of Heatmiser, Elliott Smith's old band) fought with an audience member in the front row. Not a fistfight, but an argument with some goon who wanted them to get off the stage. Coomes responded by saying he wanted to cut out the guy's tongue. He jumped on his keyboard while playing it, getting out aggression in a healthier way. Drummer Janet Weiss (from Sleater-Kinney) had the quote of the evening: "Old people know how to rock 'n' roll!"