I recently made it one of my life goals to see one of my favorite bands, Lightning Bolt, live. Pathetic goal you say? Well when one considers that Lightning Bolt play mostly abandoned warehouses and peoples basements and have a knack for “secret shows” I think it becomes a little less pathetic. And I really love them. I like to think I am not very fan-boyish about anything, but Lightning Bolt breaks that rule. They are just that amazing. Anyway when it was brought to my attention by my Google-happy, lovely girlfriend Margot that they were playing Terrastock in Providence I had to go. Apparently Terrastock is 99% psychedelic/folk music, not my cup of tea. Regardless I figured paying $45 to fulfill a life goal was worth it. Boy was I right.
For those who don’t know Lightning Bolt are Brian Chippendale (drums) and Brian Gibson (bass). They are also in my top five favorite bands ever. In short they are absolute virtuosos on their instruments; if you want to read more they have a Wikipedia* entry that’s actually pretty good. If you are a fan of ridiculously badass noise/drums and bass check out their newest album Hypermagic Mountain. I had heard from my good friend Rich and from reading various articles that they didn’t really like to play on stage. And that they are really fucking loud live.
I had never seen so many patrons with earplugs than I did tonight. Everyone I saw had some form of ear protection. Everyone except me. Not only was this a new concert experience, but kinda scary. It’s like if everyone on a cruise ship had a life preserver on, but you didn’t. You aren’t sure if the boat is going to sink, but everyone else seemed to think so. Not just earplugs but more than a few people had on those ear muff things that guys working around airplanes use. Margot even went to the bathroom and crumpled up some toilet paper to use as makeshift earplugs. I apologized to my ears beforehand. The Brian boys were very prompt in setting up, especially with the 65 or so pedals Mr. Gibson uses. (I am going to try and give a mental picture of what the set-up looked like, for those curious people. If you are one of the lucky people who’ve seen Lightning Bolt or don’t care, scroll past these parentheses. You have about 8 speakers against a wall; drum kit right in front of it and pedals and other bass items to my left. Since they play on the floor with the crowd, a sizeable reflecting mirror was jerry-rigged behind Chippendale so that people not in the immediate front could see what was going on. I started about 3 people deep almost dead center.)
The crowd here seemed kind of on the older/hippie side so I wondered how frenzied the mob would be. I was shocked when the opening note didn’t make my ears bleed as I had feared. They started off slow and I didn’t recognize the song, so far the crowd was very tame, almost unimpressed. (Another aside: Chippendale “sings” through a walkie talkie like object that is very distorted and barely comprehensible. Oh yeah, and it was attached to the mouth of a creepy, serial kiler-esque, mask homemade out of what looked like old clothing tatters. Awesome.) About three songs in they finally played something I recognized, “Dead Cowboy” off of Hypermagic, one of my favorite songs. This set the crowd on fire. It was a flurry of shoving, punching, and jumping. I have to say playing on the floor, right with the fans of your music, is a fantastic idea. I had never felt so connected with a group than I did tonight. I will admit I occasionally had to wiggle a finger in my ear for minor relief from the sonic assault. During the last song (probably my favorite from the new album, Riiffwraith) Chippendale moved his drum set in the direct center of the crowd and went insane. It was a truly grand spectacle to behold and my favorite part of the show.
After playing a lot of the songs off Hypermagic and lasting a good hour the show was over. I ended up right in front of Chippendales drum kit and contemplated stealing a drum stick, but thought better of it. Me and a few other guys talked to him about what songs he should have played and how awesome the show was. And at the risk of sounding like a 14 year old girl at a Backstreet Boy concert, I got to shake his hand before he left (!). Overall a truly amazing show that I will never forget, maybe the best I have seen yet. I look forward to seeing them again. Maybe with earplugs next time.
Official Lightning Bolt site: http://laserbeast.com