Concert Review: Jon Spencer and the HITmakers / Bloodshot Bill @ Lark Hall, 1/31/2023

ALBANY – The double bill at Lark Hall Tuesday night was the perfect antidote to the January blues as we leave that most miserable of months with a fond “Good riddance.” A decent size crowd at this fine venue was treated to a potent double whammy of weird, that being Jon Spencer and the Hitmakers, with special guest Bloodshot Bill.

And he is special. To describe Bloodshot Bill as a rockabilly musician is a bit like saying the Taj Mahal is a building. Or the Grand Canyon is a hole in the ground. In his remarkable performance Bloodshot Bill, ah, let’s call him BB, positively personified the deranged spirit of psychobilly madness with a side order of lupine lunacy. His voice ranged from a guttural drawl, like Wolfman Jack with laryngitis, to a near Elvis-like croon, to a maniacal Dwight Frye cackle and all points in between. He muttered, hiccuped, whistled, mewled, mugged, gurned, grunted, chuckled and yelped. His guitar playing was fierce and unmoored, slashing away tenaciously like Bo Diddley playing the theme from the Munsters. Upside down.

Bloodshot Bill (Photo by Leif Zurmuhlen)

A one-man band, BB needed only the accompaniment of his bass drum and hi-hat, fueled by copious slurps of PBR, to draw us into his strange and sticky web.

Follow that. Well, that’s exactly what Jon Spencer and his new band, the Hitmakers, did.

From the first note played, it was clear they had just one setting…. Full on.

Spencer and his band were a whirlpool of aggression – Sam Coomes shed 96 tears on his whirligig synthesizers, a Farfisa fantasist providing spiraling shards of melody amidst the maelstrom. Andy Zammit mercilessly thrashed his drum kit into submission. The stone-faced Bob Bert (ex-Sonic Youth and Pussy Galore – a previous band of Spencer’s) played “trash” percussion, literally two trashcans and what looked like the chassis of a car. “Drumsticks? We don’t need no stinkin’ drumsticks.” Bert’s leather-gloved hands relentlessly hammered out the beat with, well… actual hammers.

Jon Spencer (Photo by Leif Zurmuhlen)

And fronting it all, Spencer, wiry, clad in a black suit, black curly hair, looking much like he did twenty years ago, ripping riffs from his battered guitar, throwing in short squalling solos, barking, shouting, testifying like a Southern Baptist preacher gone over to the dark side.


Rock and roll. 

Photo Gallery of Jon Spencer and the HITmakers by Leif Zurmuhlen

Photo Gallery of Bloodshot Bill by Leif Zurmuhlen

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