There’s an argument to be made that Jon Spencer is missing out on a career in the service of the Lord.
Such are his exhortations and a manic stage manner that verges on preaching, the thought occurs that he’s wasted not being behind a pulpit and tending his flock. Still, religion’s loss is music’s gain as he leaves behind the frenzied ramalama of the Blues Explosion to concentrate on the rockabilly psychosis of Heavy Trash.
Now celebrating their 10th anniversary and with three albums under their belt, Heavy Trash, based around the core duo of Spencer and guitarist Matt Verta-Ray and here augmented by upright bassist Bloodshot Bill and drummer Sam Baker, are no mere side project. This is an entity in its own right and one that drills deep into the heart and soul of rockabilly while bringing something fresh and heartfelt to the form.
The early signs don’t bode well. Taking the stage to a crashing wall of noise, it quickly becomes apparent that Spencer is suffering a technical problem that is knocking his guitar out of commission. Not that this fazes his comrades, who continue with the barrage until a new lead remedies the problem.
“Are you ready to do it?” yells Spencer. With the reaction in the affirmative, Heavy Trash launch into the call and response of Say Yeah and from there on in refuse to slacken in purpose or intensity. With the members of the audience finding themselves gasping for air in the increasingly sweltering environs of the venue, Heavy Trash feed off the exhaustion and increase in energy. Justine Alright rollicks along with the speed of a runaway freight train and Punk Rock Mama evokes the spirit of Buddy Holly.
As evidenced by The Female Form, Heavy Trash are very much a band, with Verta-Ray handling vocals and displaying an admirable dexterity with his twanging guitar. It also becomes apparent that the band don’t so much do encores as another set entirely that witnesses spirited versions of Link Wray’s reading of Batman Theme and The Everly Brothers’ Bird Dog.
Naysayers might claim that Heavy Trash sail too close to parody, but this is to miss the point. Their irreverence, combined with injections of soul, rock’n’roll, elements of punk rock, a genuine love of the form and an unabashed sense of fun are precisely what make Heavy Trash such a joy. Rock on.