Photo by MARY LYNN DOMINGUEZ
Skulking into the basement of the First Unitarian Church last night to see the sold-out show of noise-rock duo Lightning Bolt felt like more of a “Boys Only” club than most concerts usually do for me. Unsurprisingly, the guy to gal ratio was at an unhealthy 10:1, and that’s counting the begrudgingly-dragged-along girlfriends. Regardless, I can only assume that everyone there was a loyal and willing fan, seeing no issue with having his or her face violently torn off by Lightning Bolt’s signature machine-gun-meets-outer-space vortex of sound. Getting the appropriately themed lightning bolt-shaped marks on my wrist felt like a real privilege, but forgetting to bring earplugs felt like my biggest mistake.
When Lightning Bolt finally took the stage, drummer and vocalist Brian Chippendale announced his goal of heating up the basement to 110 degrees, which was was met with a vigorous reaction from the crowd. Before starting, a minor adjustment was made to the stage setting —audience members were invited onstage to circle around the band if being in the overheated soup of dudes reeking of B.O. seemed less-than-enviable, which it was truth be told. Once all fire codes were thoroughly disregarded and everyone present accepted the possibility of never seeing the light of day again, the show began. Chippendale tied the binds of his signature mask, which is something like a Mexican wrestling mask of cartoonish designs and eagle eyes, stitched together Texas Chainsaw Massacre-style. The proceeding sounds of the night could be described similarly. Perhaps equally as disturbing was the way Lightning Bolt blasted off fearlessly into “The Metal East” without hesitation, mowing down an entire audience that was more than happy to be annihilated. Within minutes, a structural collapse seemed inevitable judging from the shaking of the walls, and the air was thick with the sweaty man-mist rising off the steaming torsos of overheating fanboys.
Like the rippling sounds of Lightning Bolt, the exuberant audience moved accordingly, throwing some unstrapped concertgoers overhead to crowd surf, possibly trampling a few others who fell underneath, and otherwise throwing themselves around in a mosh pit. Others stood wide-eyed and beaming, pleased to be crammed hazardously into a basement and drowned out in sound during songs like “Snow White (& The 7 Dwarves Fans),” which endured without breaks for more than 10 minutes. All of this was natural for fans of Lightning Bolt, who wanted nothing more than to completely indulge in the overwhelming and unrelenting high-velocity tempo of the music. However, Lightning Bolt did not play without direction. The momentum of their set was quickly gained and maintained, making jolting percussion seem natural, and easily progressing through intricately zig-zagging guitar riffs. Chippendale’s vocals, wailing through a distorted telephone receiver attached to his mask, made it obvious that whatever feeling the crowd derived from listening to Lightning bolt, be it absolute rage or a rush of euphoria, was spot-on. — MARY LYNN DOMINGUEZ