Jon Langford must have some as-yet-unidentified musical psychosis that drives him to form bands with little regard for the number of chainsaws he’s juggling. Langford continues to front The Mekons, sporadically his primary group since 1977, but he also maintains Waco Brothers, his solo/Skull Orchard activities and occasional appearances by Men of Gwent and The Pine Valley Cosmonauts.
Langford recently shoehorned a new group into existence, a raucous Rock quintet dubbed Bad Luck Jonathan, which erupts with a self-described “socialist voodoo space boogie” vibe; think the Wacos channeling Motörhead.
Bad Luck Jonathan began shortly after the release of Langford’s 2014 solo album, Here Be Monsters. Langford wanted to assemble a touring band to promote it, but many of his regular collaborators were unavailable, so he considered going out alone.
“I thought I’d book loads of gigs and just find people in different towns I’d played with,” Langford says. “We had a band in Seattle and Phil Wandscher, who used to be in Whiskeytown, was in it, but Martin Billheimer, Sally (Timms)’s boyfriend, said he was coming with me on a bit of it as well because he thought it would be a laugh.”
The full-bore Psych/Blues/Rock gigs were so personally captivating that Langford returned to Chicago and told Wacos/Skull Orchard rhythm section Alan Doughty and Joe Camarillo that they should all do something together. That led to more successful gigs and the collective feeling they were onto something completely unique.
“Martin became more of the lead singer and me and Phil share in the vocals. It became a different entity really quickly,” Langford says. “I’m playing guitar and I do some lead vocals, but it’s more of an ensemble thing. It’s more like the Wacos or The Mekons, where there’s different voices and different things going on. This is not my solo stuff.”
Bad Luck Jonathan’s run of shows at this year’s South By Southwest festival in Austin, Texas included a spectacularly notorious gig at Saxon Pub, where Langford and company were so riotously unhinged they forced the shortening of headliner Giving Tree’s gig due to Bad Luck Jonathan’s suspected damage to its backline equipment (partial footage is posted on YouTube).
All was well afterward when Langford apologized to one of the band members, giving him his business card and offering to pay for any needed repairs. The Giving Tree member looked at the card and said, “THE Jon Langford?”
“We’ve been naughtier in other environments,” Langford says. “It was just that one club in Austin. They’re very old school or something.”
The band’s self-titled debut album isn’t officially out yet, but if you want to sample it before their MOTR Pub gig in Cincinnati, the MOTR jukebox has featured the CD for the past couple of months. “
Yeah, I made them one,” Langford says with a laugh. “They’re the only place in the world at the moment.”
Guerilla marketing at its best. Or at least it’s most Langfordian.
9 p.m. Saturday. Free. MOTR Pub, 1345 Main St., Over-the-Rhine, motrpub.com.