Saturday, April 19

It's very unusual for the opening act on an established band's tour to get an encore. It goes against rock protocol. (Yeah, I wrote "rock protocol" and am just as embarrassed as you.) It's even more unusual when the encore is requested from the lead singer of the headliner. But that's how good Shockwave Riderz was.

Based in Pittsburgh, Penn., and obviously familiar with synth-punk pioneers Suicide and The Screamers, Shockwave Riderz positively obliterated Club Congress with their electronic wasteland of noise and swinging live drumbeats. Lead vocalist Sara Mac, doubly blessed with charisma and an outstanding voice, belted one great song after another, and when drummer Phil Boyd joined in for some harmonies, it was the most beautifully repulsive and repulsively beautiful music I've experienced in some time.

After Jon Spencer demanded a couple more songs from Shockwave Riderz, the Blues Explosion began their set with their patented unassuming grandeur. It was clear from the first notes that the band was revitalized. After a long period of dormancy, the Blues Explosion returned last year with their most straightforward rock and roll album to date, Meat + Bone, and earlier in the day released a 12-inch of Beastie Boys and LL Cool J covers for Record Store Day.

The legendary trio's performance was more in line with the hip-hop and funk sounds of their new record and early '90s landmark albums, but they didn't leave the garage punk behind.

At this point, the Blues Explosion might as well be classic rock and it's hard to believe that Jon Spencer was once considered the epitome of alternative rock irony culture and a provocateur. But almost 30 years into his career (counting his seminal noise rock band Pussy Galore), he's grown into the ranks of the soul and rock and roll pioneers admired by his closest historical predecessor, Mick Jagger. Both have been considered inauthentic actors miming African-American music with their intentions debated. The difference between Jon Spencer and Mick Jagger is the difference between The Rolling Stones' Voodoo Lounge (released three decades after they debuted) and releasing a 12-inch of golden-age rap covers. The Blues Explosion has grown up without compromising what made them great in the first place. And that sensibility is what made 1993's "Afro" as exhilarating as the new material. Here's to another few decades of the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, should we be so lucky.

More by Joshua Levine

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