Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Guest Post: Bob Reviews Lightning Bolt at the Rock N Roll Hotel in Washington, DC (5/12/15)

Well, clearly I’ve been too lazy to post on the blog lately. So what better time to introduce new Static and Distance Washington, DC correspondent Bob! You may know Bob from past posts such as IHRTLUHC: The Definitive Lawrence University Playlist, and my legendary first post (surely to be archived in the Library of Congress any day now) describing our fabled college radio program “Safe as Milk.” Our tastes overlap a good amount, though his interests veer deeper into the jammy and noisy side of things. Bob and I often argue about the merits of The Grateful Dead, his favorite band [in a shocking recent development I conceded for the first time that there is a Grateful Dead song I love. “Bertha” is a great (Bob edit: goddamned AMAZING) song]. Anyway, I’ve been bugging Bob to write an impassioned defense of The Grateful Dead on the blog for awhile now.  But he keeps procrastinating on that. Maybe he’ll get it together before the Farewell Shows this July. In the meantime, he recently caught a band on the noisier side of the musical spectrum, Lightning Bolt, in concert and was jazzed enough about it to send me a review of the show. So here it is.  I apologize for his language and bizarre analogies.


Hey all, this is Bob putting forth a writing object, let's see how this shakes out.

I went to see Lightning Bolt last Tuesday night at Rock N Roll Hotel, which is always nice cause it's an easy walk to/from my place.  Hooray conveniency.  Plus at $14 it falls right in my ticket price sweet spot: anything much more than that and it's a decision worth thinking about, and if it's much cheaper than that then shit starts to get sonically spotty.

I've wanted to see these guys for years, but they don't tour often and the timing of my living in a city and their playing there never worked out.  Lightning Bolt are from Providence and they play kind of a super-riffy but sludgy bass line over frenetic drumming with bizarre vocals.  They've been around since ‘99 or so, and solidified a surprisingly decent noise scene out of Providence, not necessarily cause Providence is shitty but more ‘cause it's just small.

Their shows are known for being frankly, fucking nuts.  First off they're insanely loud live. They set up these amps/speakers/whatever that are monstrous- they look like discordant electronics cobbled together to approach the form of Marshall Stacks.  The other key point is they are known for setting up on the floor of a show, à la Dan Deacon or most any indie band that has multiple percussionists that walk off the stage during their final encore cause FUCK the stage this is an intimate SHOW.

I was honestly a bit nervous about the second bit.  That kind of set up is ideal/necessary for basement show type shows, but in a room bigger than a bullshit open concept living room lines of sight could be tricky.  Second is the completely unreasonable nightmare that I somehow get shoved onto the band and destroy some custom pedals or some shit.  I'd have the same rep as the dude who stole Sonic Youth's gear, which is undesirable.

The other notable live aspect is that the drummer is the singer for the group.  He does this not via a mic stand or such, but rather taking what looks like the mic on a CB radio, securing that to a bandana, and tying it around his face.  This combined with the construction site-style ear protection he wears makes him look like a crazy person that's interviewed during an investigation on the X-Files.  But in a good way.

The Truth is Out There

Also in a "only I care about this ‘cause I was a drummer" type way, the drummer's kit is interesting. Dude has no high-hat at all, he basically just beats the shit outta his ride the whole time.  Instead he manipulates all the effects on his vocals via a pedal board with his left foot.  Wacky shit.

With that in mind the show I saw delivered.  They actually set up on the stage, the drummer looked like a madman, and they were loud.  Louuuuuuuuud.  Before the start of the show I saw a sizable amount of people in Gallaudet gear, which confused me because it's the deaf university nearby and generally they're not huge concert goers.  Then when the band started and I could feel the bass line through both the beer can in my hand and somehow through the hairs on my leg (which was really weird and cool), I realized Lightning Bolt are the perfect band for deaf people.

They played for about an hour, which is actually my ideal show length, but christ they PLAYED the whole hour.  The drummer is basically a human being playing blast beats.  He looks like what they have Animal on the Muppets look like when he busts into a Moon solo, except he keeps that intensity going for a straight hour without collapsing.  It doesn't make sense.  Also, when he walked on stage I noticed that he was super skinny. Now I realize it's because he spends his life looking like the participants in an exercise tape watched in fast-forward.

While this musical approximation of the Tasmanian Devil cartoon sits on the right, on the left the bassist looks incredibly calm.  Focused, not standing there like he's waiting for a bus on a nice day, but surprisingly calm.  All the while he's just destroying his bass, going from sludgy Earth-rattling lines to finger tapping and playing a bass line that's like an Eddie Van Halen solo.

The tunes were all solid, which was especially impressive since half of the set was the new album they just released, their first in 5 years or so.  They played Dead Cowboy, which is one of the best, and probably the quintessential LB song.

If you watch that and you don't think "Jesus christ this guy wrote a treatise on THIS shit?" you'll need to see them basically immediately.  Which isn't possible, since I'm pretty sure their tour is ending soon so it'll be awhile till their next show.  But THE NEXT SHOW, go.  It'll be worth it for the experience.  Just bring ear plugs or something.