BEING THERE: The Jesus Lizard @ Union Transfer

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The Jesus Lizard – if you’re into the trashy side of ’90s alt rock/noise rock/post-hardcore, you either know ‘em, or you don’t know ‘em yet. If you fall into the latter category, I suggest you go blow your ears out to their 1991 record, Goat; it’s a good place to start. What makes this band special is their ability to meld harsh punk tones and belligerent drunken preaching into something that sounds much more mature than the sum of its parts. Their hooks and grooves are the glue that holds this seasick monkey trick together.

The Austin, Texas band formed in ’87 when singer David Yow and bassist David Sims (both formerly of Scratch Acid) joined forces with guitarist Duane Denison and a drum machine. The trio soon moved to Chicago, and the drum machine only made it onto their first EP, Pure, before being replaced by Mac McNeilly, formerly of a noise rock band called Phantom 309. The Jesus Lizard recorded the meat & potatoes of their discography through 1994 with Steve Albini, and then two full-lengths and some miscellaneous releases since. The band are currently wrapping up their third consecutive tour since their second reunion in 2017. I got to see them ravage Philly’s Union Transfer last night, so here’s how it went down.

The crowd was younger on average than last year – not as many old heads, and somehow there was less energy. Last year’s mosh pit took up at least 2/3 of the floor; this year’s was about 1/5. I did notice the same three OG devotees front and center as had attended last year, including one pink-haired woman who had literally tugged David Yow’s pants down to expose his pubus and ass crack. That was when I discovered that Yow goes commando, a revelation that had been confirmed last night as well, because, while OG Pinkhair was not as unhinged this time around, it didn’t stop Yow from taking matters into his own hands by unzipping his fly and letting his bulbous beer gut squeeze his pants down to about last year’s level. His gleaming, albeit hairy, naked belly, by the way, was the star of the show; Yow displayed it proudly, even swinging it into the mic stand to boast its formidable radius. He crowd-surfed at least five times, nearly making it over to the bar, despite the endless supply of Tecate that awaited him on the stage.

The band played a total of 27 songs spanning three sets (including an encore). With “Mouth Breather,” “Boilermaker,” “Seasick,” “Here Comes Dudley,” and other favorites, the setlist left nothing to be desired. I don’t know if my memory was playing tricks on me, but I think they played “Dudley” three times. No complaints here, though. Sims’ bass riffs really stood out to me. His hand spidered across the fretboard with seemingly effortless precision. Denison played a yellow, semi-hollow Travis Bean with three P-90s, very different from the Bean he played last year, and I was geeking out a little. For the narrow slice of time Yow actually had a shirt on, he donned a FUCK TRUMP tee. If you’re so inclined, and have no New Year’s Eve plans, you can catch them tonight in Brooklyn for the finale of their tour. — KYLE WEINSTEIN

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