Photo by DYLAN JARED LONG
Lightning Bolt’s band name may be a visual representation of their sound. Other band names that could have been a good fit for the noise rock duo are – hold on, let me scroll through my list here – Total Lunatics™ or perhaps Fuck Rocket™. Unassociated recording engineer Steve Albini called one of their live performances the “best alarm clock [he’s] ever had” when they played on the doorstep of his neighbor John Peel’s house. Yes, the John Peel.
Lightning Bolt formed in college at Rhode Island School of Design in ’94. Drummer/vocalist Brian Chippendale heard rumors of a sick bassist on campus, so he reached out to Brian Gibson, and CRASH! BANG! BOOM! Lightning Bolt were formed. During their earliest couple of years, they played with guitarist Hisham Bharoocha, who went his own way to form Black Dice.
Lightning Bolt are known for adrenaline-pumped performances at blaring volumes, often playing guerilla-style on the floor at the center of the room, surrounded by the crowd. Gibson’s bass is highly distorted through a colorful signal chain of pedals, while Chippendale’s vocals are muffled in sheer volume, with his microphone stitched into his makeshift luchador mask. Last night, they took to the stage at Union Transfer for a change, switching it up from their usual Philly venue, the First Unitarian Church.
The first thing I noticed when the Brians entered the stage was that Chippendale’s mask was worn to shreds; months of heavy touring had rendered the mask a tattered, fleshy patchwork. Who knew Leatherface slammed the drums? My ears are still ringing and my brain and body have not fully recovered from being rattled around the pit. But no complaints here; the volume was just what a Lightning Bolt show ought to be – loud enough to drown out the sound produced when an elbow strikes a jaw, and there was plenty of that going around. One guy next to me had been clocked and I could tell because he appeared to be setting his jaw back into place before allowing himself to be swallowed back into the maelstrom.
Lightning Bolt played the usual classics like “Dracula Mountain” and the traditional set closer “Dead Cowboy” while mixing in newer material from the album they dropped in October, Sonic Citadel. It’s difficult to review a show like this because it was one long peak. Every song was an absolute banger. Chippendale addressed one particularly ecstatic fan in the front row, asking what his name is, and then telling him that he’d won the golden ticket. “I’ve got your ticket, Jared!” he yelled menacingly, and vowed to track Jared down after the show to take him backstage and throw him into his candy river. I hope Jared’s okay. — KYLE WEINSTEIN