Thursday, January 26, 2023

Live Shows: Jon Spencer + The HITmakers, Minibeast, & Muck and the Mires, The Middle East, Cambridge, MA 1/24/23

I'm a little bit of an obsessive Jon Spencer fan. I've seen Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, Heavy Trash, and Jon Spencer + The HITmakers before, so I'm obviously going to try to see the man every time he comes through the area. With the release of last year's excellent Spencer Gets It Lit, I've watched the band play multiple tours without coming to Boston, or anywhere else I could feasibly get to easily. When he finally announced a Boston show at The Middle East, I couldn't pass it up.

An added bonus were two local support bands I'd go see on their own anytime. Muck and the Mires were a perfect opener for Jon Spencer. They have this vintage garage rock sound that could be from anytime in the past six decades. It's the style started in hundreds of garages across America once The Beatles broke out that isn't exactly easy to tie down to a specific time since every generation has a handful of these bands. They're one of those bands that I would have sworn had started around 1982 or so, but they've only been round since 2001. In a city overflowing with killer garage rock/power pop bands, Muck and the Mires proved they're top tier. Songs like "I'm Your Man" and "Saturday Let Me Down Again" are just fun rock and roll songs, and they make for an even more fun night out.

Minibeast might have seemed like an odd choice as an opener, but Spencer has been known to lean into the weird and experimental side of rock and roll, and this band definitely fits that. Led by Peter Prescott (ex-Mission of Burma), the trio played a style of loud art rock that relies heavily on loops. Most art rock is of the chin stroking variety, and Minibeast certainly are that, but this is chin stroking music you can also rock out to. The loops were also used for show at times, with Prescott leaving the stage during a song to rock out and cheer in the audience. Keith Seidel is an absolute beast on drums and just attacked his kit in the most primal way for their entire set. This was music that makes you think and rock out, and that's a rare, rare thing.

Every single time I've seen Jon Spencer's various bands, it goes the same way. I'll be enjoying the first half of the show, but not truly swept up in it. It will be good, but not in that next level way I want. And then Spencer will start ranting in a very preacher-like way, usually about rock and roll, and then something shifts into that next level that I need. This was the kind of show where Spencer apologized for fighting a cold, and no one would have even guessed. (Of course, in this day and age it added a sense of danger I wasn't looking for, but I guess that's the way it is now). He had an intense energy and is one of the most compelling and underrated frontmen in music today, and seeing him live is a treat. The band closed out their main set with a triple shot of "Death Ray," "Just Wanna Die," and "Worm Town," and I can't think of any other artist that could make three songs about death such a celebration. When they came back for an encore, they seemed to tease Jon Spencer Blues Explosion classics "2 Kindsa Love" and "Bellbottoms," and no one certainly minded they didn't end up following up on that tease.

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