Features | Awards

The David Bowie Fountain of Youth Award

By Maura McAndrew | 6 December 2010

Jon Spencer, Heavy Trash
The Midnight Soul Serenade Tour

When I heard Spencer was bringing his oddball rockabilly band Heavy Trash to Pittsburgh in April, I imagined that, at 45, Spencer and his equally middle-aged band would scratch out only an hour or so of solid album material. At best. I was happy to be proven wrong when three hours later I stood, dizzy from the best, most charming, rambling, batshit set I’d ever seen by any band. It amazes me that any person on the planet has as much energy as Spencer, who sweats onstage night after night in brocade suits, putting on a one-man psycho-preacher revival for hours without stopping.

The set began straightforwardly, though amusingly, with Spencer in full Elvis mode (“Thank you-uh ladies and gentlemen! We’re Heavy Tra-yash from New York Cit-ay!”). When monitors began to malfunction onstage, Spencer wasted no time, simply untangling and setting up shop on the floor about a foot in front of my face. He stumbled around the crowd, occasionally breaking in the middle of song (talented musicians onstage never faltering) to expound on topics close to a rockabilly man’s hear—like love, rock ‘n roll, and people, man. Grabbing the mic and putting his arm around the most belligerent drunk woman in the crowd, he was off: “Good people of Pittsburgh, I’m here to talk to you tonight about love.”

During the swooning closer, soul-stirring ballad “In My Heart,” Spencer’s band looped and looped as he broke off repeatedly into long-winded declarations on the nature of love and lust. Always in character, full of hilarious swagger and ridiculous ideas, Spencer strung us along for what must’ve been at least twenty minutes, possibly thirty, rushing into the crowd, falling down, getting back up, and reminding us that rock ’n roll is not dead, that it’s right here in this crazy, committed, unpredictable performance, that for twenty-plus years he’s been blowing the lid off, that he puts other rock stars to shame. Thankfully, he doesn’t show any signs of slowing down.