Sunday, November 15, 2009
Lightning Bolt - Live Review
well, it's not a lamppost but...
Being gig-starved for well over a year, my anticipation leading up this Guitar Wolf/Lightning Bolt double-header (pretty much my dream billing) was like sex when you are camping....... in tents!! sorry...
First on the bill were Japanese hardcore punks Struggle For Pride, with a classic hardcore name like that and an inked-up, shaven headed (but very short!) frontman working himself into a silent frenzy as the band cranked out the opening chugs I knew what to expect. But no amount of reading books on the US hardcore scene and listening for years at home from the safety of my living room could prepare me for the sheer unbridled fury unleashed. As the first extraordinary screams spewed forth from his lips the "singer" faced the crowd, mere inches away, with a fixed stare, eyes ablaze and flung the steel microphone stand as hard as he could into the first few rows. The place erupted and a full-on, fist flailing, slam-dancing, scary-as-fuck circle pit was on. They roared through 8 or 9 songs in 20 minutes and stopped abruptly, the diminutive demon of moments before smiled sweetly, bowed repeatedly, thanked us all in polite Japanese and urged us not to miss the "wonderful" Guitar Wolf coming up next!
Now, seeing Guitar Wolf live is more akin to a religious experience than a rock'n'roll show, with FrontWolf Seiji (officially The Coolest Human Being On The Planet) inducting non-believers into the cult of Jet Rock'n'Roll. The 'Wolf; Seiji plus Yakuza-tatted DrumWolf and new member BassWolf (looking exactly like Joey Ramone) stroll on stage to the deafening strains of Ramones' "Cretin Hop" looking like the last biker gang on earth from a 50's B-movie; all leather jackets (never ever removed despite the rivers of sweat streaming off of our heroes by the end) and wraparound shades. Seiji pouts, poses, does the rock'n'roll devil horn thing, points his guitar like a machine gun, plays guitar behind his head, writhes around on the floor, pouts some more, howls like a wolf, screams "ROCK'N'ROLL" several times for no apparent reason, takes his mic into the crowd and sings from the middle of the floor, forces his guitar onto a stage invader and makes him play, hand jives and generally behaves like a true (jet) rock'n'roll hero! By the end, the tiny fifth floor venue has been transformed into the amphitheatre of the gods of rock'n'roll at the last party on the edge of hell and the few non-believers left are truly converted! The music? Oh, well it was completely lost in a barrage of screams, squeals and feedback. I thought I caught a cover of "Kick Out The Jams", my mate claims he heard "My Generation". Who knows? Who cares?"ROCK'N'ROLLLLLLL"!!!
Which just leaves us with the mighty Lightning Bolt. Famously shunning stages to set up their minimum of equipment (a small drumkit, and a stack of amps) in the middle of the floor, tonight is no exception. As the crowd gather round, the two Brians (the quiet stoic Brian on bass guitar and the crowd-pleasing Brian on drums and weird-wrestler-mask-with-a-built-in-microphone-voice-changer-thingy) power into action, creating a truly stunning wall of noise within seconds. With such a minimal set-up, the variations are limited, but LB manage to vary the tempo and ratchet up (and down) the noise with deft skill to keep the crowd interested and crowd surfers erm...surfing. As the last strains of the encore echo around the venue my hearing is well and truly shot, i'm gasping for water, but i'm still reluctant to leave.
Verdict: Lightning Bolt more than did justice to their reputation, but if truth be told the night belonged to Seiji and Guitar Wolf, but then again it's not easy to compete when you put yourself up against bona fide living legends.