Jon Spencer Blues Explosion
with Andre Williams and the Countdowns
Club 5, Jacksonville, FL • January 17, 1999
I had an interview scheduled with Judah of the JSBX for 5 o’clock. I got there, and was told that they (meaning the guy behind the counter, who had a very bored look on his face, and a girl with this same disposition) had never heard of the tour manager I was asking for, and to “come back later tonight and try to find him.” At this moment, I felt that things were only going to get worse as the night progressed; luckily, I was very wrong.
After waiting for over four hours on the sidewalk in front of Club 5, I was finally able to speak to someone. I asked the person at the ticket window if this was were will-call was, she replies with an odd, confused look and says “What… your name is Will Call?” I asked about my photo pass to take pictures, and another person says, “What is a photo pass?” Fortunately for me, they didn’t seem to mind if anyone took pictures. I then wandered around the club looking for the tour manager, but he was nowhere to be found. I saw an older black gentleman on the side of the stage, and climbed up to see if he knew who I was looking for, and we went in back. I sat in back waiting to explain and apologize for missing the interview. While I waited, Jon Spencer was mixing himself a drink, so I apologized for missing the interview and explained the circumstances, and he said it was not a problem. He then told me to come back as soon as they were about to go on and we can do a few pictures. At this point, things were definitely looking up.
I went back out to watch the opening band, the Countdowns, get the show started. After the first couple of songs, I would have sworn that these guys were a JSBX cover band. The drummer looked like Russell Simins, with the trademark puffy hair and drumming style, and the guitar player somewhat resembled Judah, but the singer/guitar player was dressed like Jon Spencer, and attempted to sing and shout as only (unfortunately for the Countdown’s singer) Jon Spencer can. Their mockery of the Blues Explosion wasn’t working at all.
Halfway into their set, the Countdowns introduced someone who is “the only black man in South Dakota, Mr. Greasy Chicken and Bacon Fat.” I had no clue as to who they were talking about. Out walked a man in a white zoot suit and hat who reminded me of Cab Calloway in The Blues Brothers. I looked a little closer, and realized that this was the guy that took me backstage earlier, but dressed a whole lot different. The man’s name is Andre Williams, using the Countdowns as his back-up band (a much better role for them to play). He proceeded to run and jump across the stage like you would expect his grandson to be able to do. The man had more energy, and played harder than, most bands that are less than half his age. You should definitely check out his new album, Slinky, on In The Red Records. After a half-hour, he finished up, and I went backstage to get a picture. As I was waiting for the band to get ready to play, I watched Jon Spencer jump up and down for half an hour straight to get warmed up.
Finally, I got the picture, and went around the building to watch the show. As I opened the side door, I heard “Get Down Lover,” a great song that is only available on the “Talk About the Blues” single. As soon as they hit the stage, it was on. There were no warm-up songs, they took the stage already white hot and ready to play. They proceeded to play songs from their new record, and a few from Extra-Width (“Afro” and “Bellbottoms”) and Now I Got Worry (“Two Kindsa Love”). I don’t think I have ever seen a man work as hard as Jon Spencer did that night. He had the crowd in the palm of his hand. His performance is best described as equal parts Jerry Lee Lewis, Southern Baptist preacher, and James Brown. For well over an hour, he did everything from climbing the stacks and jumping off, to playing the theramin from the floor during a fifteen-minute jam. Jon Spencer doesn’t waste time between songs by saying things like, “all right Jacksonville, who came to rock and roll?” He simply goes onstage and plays his ass off for over an hour, with no breaks between songs, just one long seamless set.
By the end of the night, anyone who was in the building couldn’t help but be amazed at what had just taken place. Someone needs to tell James Brown that he isn’t “The Hardest Working Man in Showbiz,” Jon Spencer is. ◼