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Blues-Punk Icon Jon Spencer Brings Latest Group to the Bottom of the Hill

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) -- One of the most influential noise/blues-punk figures to make a mark on the New York scene in the  '80s and '90s, charismatic bandleader Jon Spencer brings his latest project the HITmakers to the Bottom of the Hill.

Spencer got his start in music with his first noise-rock band S--thaus with future Cop Shoot Cop  member Tod Ashley while attending Brown University, later moving to Washington D.C. to found his noisy outfit Pussy Galore (named after an early Bond girl) with Julia Caifritz -- later a member of all-star band Free Kitten -- in 1985 and relocating the band to New York City. That band gained notoriety with its willfully primitive collision of garage punk, Einstürzende Neubauten industrial grind and bluesy Rolling Stones swagger. The group at one point issued a limited cassette covering the Stones' seminal album Exile on Main Street in its entirety.

Pussy Galore - Kill Yourself by Irresponsableful on YouTube

Pussy Galore -- which at points also featured guitarist Neil Haggerty (later of Royal Trux and Howling Hex), former Sonic Youth drummer Bob Bert, and Spencer's future wife Cristina Martinez -- became a mainstay of the NYC underground until the group split up in 1990.

By that time, Spencer has already co-founded Boss Hog with Martinez. Pulled together to fill a last-minute opening at CBGB's, Spencer called on like-minded players from fellow NYC noise merchants the Honeymoon Killers and Unsane to complete the band's mix of scuzzy blues, artful noise and punk chaos.

Before the end of the year, the group recorded it's debut EP Drinkin', Lechin' & Lyin' with renowned punk/alt-rock studio wizard Steve Albini. The record, which featured Martinez in a provocative state of undress and was issued by respected Amphetamine Reptile imprint, established Boss Hog as a new force.

The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion - Bellbottoms by Shove Records on YouTube

Spencer also started what would become his main creative outlet with the high-energy trio the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion. A similarly minded scuzzy exploration of blues and punk, the band gradually evolved from it's early more lo-fi albums to record the hit records Extra Width and Orange that added elements of hip hop, funk and more sophisticated production to the raw attack of the two guitar and drums trio. The JSBX -- which was rounded out by monster drummer Russell Simins and guitarist Judah Bauer -- developed a reputation as a formidable live act thanks to its ferocious intensity and Spencer's charismatic stage presence.

Even though the Blues Explosion took up a majority of Spencer's time during the '90s, Boss Hog still managed a steady stream of albums and EPs with shifting line-ups that would feature Swans bassist Jens Jurgensen and JSBX collaborator Hollis Queens. By the time the band released it's eponymous second full length in 1995, they had moved to Geffen Records.

Boss Hog - I Dig You by BossHogVEVO on YouTube

That band's output would become more sporadic after that effort as Spencer focused on the progressively more electronic-influenced Blues Explosion albums, though Boss Hog managed the 2000 follow-up Whiteout (for yet another notable punk label, In the Red) despite Spencer and Martinez having their first child a couple years before.

The group would go quiet for years at a time as Spencer continued to tour and record with the JSBX as well as his more rootsy, rockabilly-flavored side project Heavy Trash, though Boss Hog reunited to tour the U.S. and Europe in 2008 and again eight years later with the release of the four-song EP Brood Star ahead of a long-awaited full-length Brood X in 2017.

Jon Spencer and the Hitmakers "Do The Trash Can" | FishCenter | Adult Swim by Adult Swim on YouTube

While the Blues Explosion didn't embark on a proper farewell tour, Spencer has confirmed that health issues Bauer was having combined with other reasons led the trio to split up after the release of their tenth and final album Freedom Tower - No Wave Dance Party 2015. He would re-emerge with his first solo album under his own name in 2018, releasing Spencer Plays the Hits. Backed by keyboard player Sam Cooms (who played in San Francisco band the Donner Party and later was in Portland, OR band Quasi and Heatmiser) and Boss Hog drummer M. Sord. the album featured a new take on Spencer's gritty, hard-grooving, fractured style of lowdown swamp punk.

Jon Spencer & the HITmakers LIVE for Jett Fest by Shove Records on YouTube

Spencer and the band -- christened the HITmakers and now featuring early collaborator Bob Bert on "trash" percussion -- recently released their second album Spencer Gets It Lit on In the Red Records to wide acclaim. For this current tour, the group features Coomes's wife Janet Weiss (Sleater-Kinney, Quasi, Wild Flag, The Jicks) playing drums with the band in addition to an opening set from Quasi. The tour stops at the Bottom of the Hill in San Francisco Tuesday night.

Jon Spencer & the HITmakers
Tuesday, April 26, 8:30 p.m. $20-$25
Bottom of the Hill

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