I waited a long time to see Lightning Bolt a second time.
The first time I saw them was around 9 years ago and it was pretty close to a life-altering event. It was by far one of the very best concerts I’ve ever been to. In fact, when people really press me on the topic, like “you’re practically an expert, what are the best shows you’ve seen?”, I tend to mention either that amazing show (with Lightning Bolt, Black Dice, Orthrelm, and Avey Tare & Panda Bear!); or else maybe Paul Flaherty & Chris Corsano or Fugazi.
Ever since then, I have been listening to Lightning Bolt on and off, picking up all their albums, occasionally listening to live performances. But I haven’t seen them live again, and I could scarcely believe it when, a few months ago, I happened to look at the concert listings and saw them listed at DC9. I was all like, “wait, really? THE Lightning Bolt??” and rushed to a computer to buy a ticket.
So it was gonna be hard for them to live up to my massive expectations.
At least there was intriguing music leading up to their Wednesday-night show. I caught part of the show opener, a solo performance under the moniker Macaw. I liked it; I found the following video on youtube that says that Macaw is one of the guys from Hume:
I thought Macaw had cool vocal effects and was a worthy way to chill out in advance of Lightning Bolt. After his performance was a very interesting guitar orchestra coordinated by Buildings. Buildings are pretty much my favorite local band lately, and it was cool to see what they pulled off: a 15-guitar line-up playing minimal pieces. I think they should do it again sometime, though the logistics must have been a nightmare. It was just a short set and it sounded really cool — mainly the guitarists were just picking one note at a time, making simple harmonies in pretty simple rhythms. I was impressed they were even all (basically) in tune, and that they almost all could fit onto the stage.
In a dcist interview before the show, the Buildings guys said they wanted to do the opposite of Lightning Bolt: instead of very few people making maximal noise, they were gonna be the maximal amount of people making minimal noise. Great idea, and I’m glad I saw it.
The Buildings Guitar Orchestra set was so quick that it seemed too early for Lightning Bolt to go on, but suddenly, there they were! Drummer Brian Chippendale appeared to be wearing a handmade Darth Maul t-shirt inside-out! It was on!
I was ready for some serious pounding noise-rock, ready for some facemelting riffage and sick, jawdrop-worthy beats. I even wore earplugs, which is an extreme rarity. I was arguably willing to dance and jump around. But I wasn’t really prepared for the moshing. The last time I saw Lightning Bolt, we didn’t really mosh. I think we may have been too stunned to even move very much — it was sort of like deer in the headlights. But the fans that turned out at DC9 — many of them seeming very young to me, like how old would they have been when I saw LB before? 9? — were all set to mosh.
I am not really against moshing; I sort of enjoyed it a few times in the past. But yo, I am old. Screeching noise is one thing, but dodging flying elbows and flying high school linebackers is not really my style anymore. I had to gradually ease my way out of the thick of the crowd. I was there for the music, not to slough off extra testosterone by thrashing into random large people. Again, I am old, gotta preserve the testosterone I still have left… Besides, I wanted to pay attention to one of my favorite bands.
Anyway despite the weirdness of all the moshing and flailing, I totally loved the show. It’s no wonder the youngsters were all pumped up. I haven’t listened to the new LB album, Earthly Delights, all that much, or even the one before that, Hypermagic Mountain, so I didn’t recognize too many songs. I thought the band sounded a little different compared to when I saw them way back when. Now they came across as a little more metal, a little more (strange to say) straightforward. Less spastic. Most of all, I thought that the first time I saw them, it was more like an equally impressive performance by Chippendale and the other Brian, bassist Gibson. This time, it seemed more like the drumming was the focus of everything. At times, it was like Gibson was just playing quite simple bass parts while Chippendale went insane, solo-ing manically all over the place. It sounded cool, and maybe it is intentional, just a little bit different in emphasis. The old stuff just seemed to be a lot wilder and more exciting from the bass-playing perspective. Either way, though, this band is so inventive and powerful that it is super impressive.
I couldn’t find any videos for the performance at DC9, but here is a good one from a couple days later that seems almost identical. And check out some photos at the Sockets Records blog where you can see Brian Chippendale’s Darth Maul shirt.
The reviewer at DCist said it was “easily” the best show she’d ever seen at DC9. Well, I wouldn’t go that far. (The best show I’ve seen at DC9 was clearly Rah Brahs!) But it was surely awesome. Just unable to quite live up to my unrealistic hope that it would not only equal, but surpass my first Lightning Bolt experience.