all words and photos: Francis Chung
The Jesus Lizard blew the doors off the 9:30 Club on Thursday night, electrifying an enthralled audience with an astonishing performance that was nothing short of an all-out assault on the senses. Having reformed with its original lineup earlier this year to play its first shows in a decade, the acclaimed post-punk quartet left no doubt that they remain one of the most explosive and entertaining live acts in rock.
Lead singer David Yow wasted no time getting reacquainted with his DC fans, diving headlong into the crowd mid-way through the propulsive, set-opening “Puss.” This was only the first of several rough-and-tumble crowd-surfing forays by the manic frontman, whose diminutive stature belies his dynamic, almost menacing stage presence and ferociously frenzied vocal style. While Yow’s on-and-off-stage showmanship unavoidably commanded the spotlight, his bandmates were equally impressive during classic songs such as “Monkey Trick” and “Glamorous,” with guitarist Duane Denison unleashing crunching, melody-spiked riffs anchored by David Wm. Sims’ gut-shaking bass lines and Mac McNeilly’s furious percussion. Remarkably, the veteran band kept up an unrelenting fever pitch throughout its 75-minute set, leaving the audience battered, bruised, exhausted, and exhilarated. Indeed, it was a shame (and a bit of a surprise) that the show did not sell out, and those who missed out may regret passing up perhaps the last opportunity to see The Jesus Lizard live in DC. Rumor has it that the band’s current reunion tour may be it’s last, and Thursday’s performance suggests that Yow and his cohorts intend to go down kicking and screaming.
Earlier, Brooklyn-based musician and artist Sarah Lipstate, who performs as Noveller, opened the concert with a brief set of ambient, highly-textured instrumental soundscapes painted with electric guitars, bows, effects pedals, and various electronics. Her songs were entrancing, though perhaps better suited to the Sonic Circuits cognoscenti than to an audience eager to rock out to The Jesus Lizard. Distractingly loud laughter and conversation from the back of the club could clearly be heard during Noveller’s performance even in the front row (and, presumably, on stage), but Lipstate’s music certainly warrants a closer listen next time she performs in DC.