Jon Spencer, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Liars Turn Seattle Into Big Apple West

The former capital of grunge hosted New York's hipster vanguard Tuesday night.

SEATTLE — You could’ve called it the Big Apple West.

For a few hours Tuesday, Seattle was no longer the former capital of
grunge, but home to all things hot, as the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion —
rejuvenated vets of the Lower East Side — plus Yeah Yeah Yeahs and the
Liars — New York’s hipster vanguard — set up shop at the Showbox.

Rock showman Spencer ripped open the headlining set with an overcaffeinated
“Bellbottoms,” sucking the crowd in like a hot rod Hoover. Sporting a long
and greasy ’do, he looked like a skinny Henry Rollins circa 1984. Drummer
Russell Simins, meanwhile, was apropos for Sasquatch country with his ’fro
gone wild.

During the horror flick single “She Said,” from this year’s return-to-form Plastic Fang, Spencer clawed the air werewolf-style, as second guitarist Judah Bauer tossed out solos fit for a Memphis barbecue.

Like any Blues Explosion outing, this show played like variations on a
theme. Time and again the band laid down fatback beats, greasy solos and
lecherous, boastful vocals. Simins switched up timing here and there, Bauer
added spice to the solos, and Spencer veered from holler to growl — but
overall the night rolled like an 80-minute hip-shaking trance, as one song
slipped into the next.

Between tunes, Spencer served familiar banter:
“Thankyouverymuchladiesandgentlemen,” “Right about now I’d like to…,” and
the ever popular, “Throw your hands in the air! Throw your hands in the
air! Throw your hands in the air — and kiss my ass!”

When the fire was starting to die out, the Explosion threw on the gasoline
with “Mean Heart,” also from Plastic Fang, with Bauer pulling out
riffs with less speed and more soul.

Earlier, the raw-rock trio Yeah Yeah Yeahs — who’ve garnered reams of
press with their five-cut self-titled debut EP — laid out a set that
included plenty of unreleased songs.

In the brutal come-on “Cold Light,” singer Karen O sounded like she would
pummel a prospect into submission with lines like, “We could do it to each
other/ Like a sister and a brother.” Decked out in a pink scarf and Billy
Idol glove, O saluted the audience and grabbed her crotch a la Michael
Jackson.

Though “Bang” is the band’s best known song and one the year’s most notable
kiss-offs (“As a f—, son, you suck”), the YYYs didn’t use it to rally the
crowd, instead throwing it out with a take-it-or-leave approach.

That’s not to say they didn’t have fun. O smiled self-effacingly when,
after she had tossed water on the audience, someone returned the volley
with a handful of ice cubes.

Artful noise-mongers the Liars opened the night with a show as danceable as it
was dissonant. Clad head to foot in white like a demented Good Humor man,
singer Angus Andrew voiced tones into his mic as if he were a zoned-out jazz
sax man — minus the sax.

Throughout the set members abandoned their instruments. At one point, Pat
Nature traded his bass to play a series of easily programmable notes on an
effects box — all the while clutching the contraption and getting down
like he was vying for a spot on “American Bandstand.”

For more sights and stories from concerts around the country, check out MTV News Tour Reports.