“What day is it? Tuesday? It’s Lightning Bolt day.”
I’ve been waiting to see Lightning Bolt since “Wonderful Rainbow,” but back in those days the band’s shows were practically secret. I’d find out about a warehouse show the following day, which would be followed by comments like, “Oh man, you didn’t know? It was such a great show!”
This time they advertised the show in the Guardian and I bought my tickets online — $10 each, with fees. I arrived a little late to the show and discovered a line in front of 12 Galaxies that stretched around the block. It was not for tickets to the Lightning Bolt show, but will call. I could’ve pulled a “I’m a journalist and need to get inside right now!” especially since I was sporting a camera bag and a microphone stand, but I was afraid to be rejected and embarrassed. So I waited around a 1/2 hour to get inside.
I set up during the experimental death metal band Burmese, who featured two-bass players and a kind-of creepy front woman. An example of a song: “(distorted bass) Buuuuummmmmm….. Buuummmmmm…. (entire band) WATAWATATAWATAWATAWATAWATAWATA (crazy singer comes in) ‘AH! AH! AH! AH! AH! AH! AH!’ (Trenchcoat Mafia bassist death growls) OOOHHHH! *silence* And then everyone would clap, ecstatically.
If I didn’t have to wait and press record on my DAT recorder, I would’ve been one of the smart people who grabbed a seat on either the stage or on the weird shelving that surrounded Lightning Bolt, who set up on the floor. No, by the beginning of their set, all that space was taken, as well as the 15 feet surrounding the stage.
Not afraid of a little danger, I grabbed my camera and plowed through the crowd, right to the front. Then, for the next 20 minutes, the crowd proceeded to spin me around like a cow in a tornado. Fuck adjusting for light or even focusiing; l had to just point, click and hope that at least one of the band members was in the shot. I stopped when my lens collided with the back of someone’s head and somehow turned on my camera’s timer. I pushed out through the crowd to the soundboard and came out after 20 minutes in the pit drenched with sweat.
When I finally made it out of the mayhem, I got a chance to listen the music, and I’m happy to report that the new material is going to make for a great new album. Great, forward driving riffs and drums, all very signature Lightning Bolt. Sounds like they’re concentrating more on the “riffs” instead of the noise; this new album could be the most accessible yet.
Of course the greatness really came through only if the crowd didn’t fuck up the set, which happened often. One example: during “Boredoms Song,” the band took about a 5-minute break to fix a guitar cord an audience member stepped on; he or she was probably pushed onto it. (I’ve included the song below because it’s awesome, but I cut out the long break).
Standing by the soundboard in the back, I watched the culprits, some wasted SF scenesters (or should I say jocks?) sporting flannel and dripping with sweat, push the crowd repeatedly, all the while jumping up and down like hyper 4-year-olds. Behind me, the sound woman hid her face in her arms on top of the mixing board.
Now that I have seen them, I can safely say I won’t go to see Lightning Bolt in the Bay Area until they play on a stage. Not that I don’t love the idea of bands playing off a stage — in my book, the Mukilteo Fairies and Behead the Prophet NLSL are the best live bands in history, partly for the fact they resisted the stage. But at shows packed full of SF scenester scum, I can’t share the same experience, especially when I have to spend the entire set pushing back against the crowd that’s trying to push me into the band.
After the show, I talked with the drummer Brian Chippendale about the show and if he had planned on playing on the floor forever. He said the band is thinking about moving to the stage “more than ever,” but the last time they played on one, in Boise, it felt weird. “Nobody touched me the whole night,” he said.
In the mean time, he’s set up an elaborate system to keep his drums from moving around. His entire drum set sits on a wooden plank with not one, but three pieces of wood at the end to hold down the bass drum. Sure, drummers will have a 2X4 at the end of carpet to keep their bass drum from moving forward, but Chippendale needs three to keep people from lifting his bass drum away from him.
“We just try to do what makes sense,” said Chippendale later. “Not that this makes any sense.”
Chippendale also told me that after this tour, Lightning Bolt plans on going into the studio to start recording the next album, which he expects to release in October or November. Apparently the band has a ton of unreleased recordings; they record every jam session and use recordings to write their songs. They even have an unreleased album of jam sessions called “Frenzy” that might not ever see the light of day. Also, the band had roadies both recording and filming them. The roadie recording them who called himself Chris Rabid, said he had around 600 live recordings of the band.
Chippendale also has tracks from his solo project Black Pus available for free download at Fauxfetus.net