Words by Brian O’Neill | Photos by Tashina Byrd
Concessions to age were made, but not by the band. The crowd was long in the tooth, what with being as many years removed from Lollapalooza as their parents were from Woodstock. They watched the show instead of their screens (some might consider this an improvement), and it seemed evident that the following day being a weekend was what allowed them to recapture their fleeting youth for the evening.
As for The Jesus Lizard, the opening track “Puss” had just reached the first time David Yow would scream, “Get her out of the truck” from the chorus when he flung himself off the stage onto the waiting arms of the crowd. He would spend about half the song rolling atop the sweaty masses.
“Thank you for your support,” he said wryly. He’s got jokes too!
It’s been eight years since the last reunion. Guitarist Duane Denison’s got more salt than pepper in his hair, matching bassist David Wm. Sims’ beard. The bald patch on the crown of Yow’s head is bigger, causing the wispy hair that’s left to fly around wildly.
With eyes closed, however, the band is exactly the juggernaut that laid waste to venues across the world throughout the ‘90s. They were terrifically taut and impossibly punishing a quarter century ago but the years in between have done nothing to dull the attack. If anything, they’re even more pissed off – cantankerous curmudgeons so disgusted with the state of rock these days they rolled up their sleeves to show the next generation how it’s done before kicking the lot of them off their lawn.
That they led off with “Puss,” which had acclaim as the A-Side of a split with Nirvana, proves how little concern they have about their lack of chart success. At their best the Jesus Lizard filter bass-chugging twitchy post-punk through a nihilistic lens, and did so throughout the decade. The setlist was loaded with greatest hits from a band that never really had any.
The band’s earliest material was well-represented. Their first single “Chrome,” a medley from the groundbreaking band of the same name and five tracks from debut Head including the slithering, menacing “7 vs. 8” were performed. There were half a dozen cuts from possibly their magnum opus Goat highlighted by “Mouth Breather” which showcased a frantic offbeat from drummer Mac McNeilly and “There Comes Dudley” which finished the first encore.
The Capitol years were also represented. “Blue Shot” was noise noir with one of Denison’s most effective riffs, one of four songs from 1996’s Shot though interestingly the band didn’t play a note from their 1998 swansong Blue. Maybe it’s because it’s the one album that didn’t feature the core four (Jim Kimball played drums on it), maybe the more experimental fare would have detracted from the severe beating the crowd received. Regardless, don’t expect a reissue in the near future.
At the conclusion of “Wheelchair Epidemic,” a Dicks cover that closed the second encore, Yow ‘s pants were nearly off, and he waved to the crowd like the most grotesque beauty queen on a parade float imaginable. That would end the show for most bands, but Jesus Lizard isn’t most bands. They still came out for a third encore. The near math-metal precision of “Thumper,” “Too Bad about the Fire” – just your average smoky lounge number about how smoking crack leads to an interesting life – and “Dancing Naked Ladies” ended the evening for good.
In these tumultuous times, the return of the Jesus Lizard is more than mere nostalgia. As the handful of youngsters in the crowd who likely weren’t born when the band first emerged can attest, Jesus Lizard may not be the hero we deserve, but they’re the heroes we need.