So a couple months ago some of you no doubt remember I flew home to Chicago to see The Jesus Lizard’s first show in ten years. Well, the other night I caught them in downtown LA and again, I’ve just got to marvel at these guys. They still hit on all four cylinders after all these years.
The Chicago show was awesome, but it was outdoors. Even David Yow pointed out how that was a bit out-of-line with what they do. The Lizard are a smaller club band; Venues like their ‘home’ at the Chicago Metro or the Henry Fonda Music Box in LA is, as Yow put it, are ‘more condusive to what they do’. The Chicago show was about flying home and seeing them with my friends; the guys I spent the 90’s with living at places like Lounge Axe and Fireside Bowl (RIP to both). Last night was about seeing the band in their natural environment in my adoptive city.
It was awesome.
A lot has changed in the music scene since the Lizard’s heyday. ‘Indie rock’, at least to me, used to mean something grand. Bands like the Jesus Lizard, Cash Money*, Delta 72, Man or Astro Man. Labels like Touch n Go and Drag City gave homes to blue collar, down and dirty rock n roll bands that toured the awesome, Pabts-soaked smaller market clubs and we all had a good ol’ time seeing shows by the above or The Quadrajets, Zen Guerilla, Firewater, etc. Nowadays ‘indie’ tends to blend with ’emo’ and hipster with douche bag. While watching the Lizard I was surrounded by skinny jean stepping, pearl-snap shirt wearing, Bon-Iver beard sporting hipsters too busy thumb-talking on their iphones to pay full attention to the small, sweaty man howling like a burn victim and hurling himself onto the happy moshers at the front of the room** or the muscians behind him turning out some of the most kick ass music ever made. What has happened to the underground?
I don’t want to be too harsh to guys touring with one of my favorite bands but a good comparison between the Lizard as ‘Then‘ to something of ‘Now’ is opening band Model Actress. I’d heard some of their stuff and kinda dug it, but as soon as they hit the stage my interest seriously waned. Five guys; drum, two guitar, two bass (just like Ned’s Atomic Dustbin!!! I was so excited) MA made some cool noise but paraded around on stage like scensters and made me question how into it they really were. The bass players especially kinda bugged me***, two probably mid-to-late 30’s guys in skinny jeans, banging out all the cliche, stylized stage moves – looking to me like they had practiced in the mirror for hours. The band as a whole had NO stage presence despite their number, especially when compared with the simple four piece of the Lizard who came out afterwards, defined the space they were given perfectly (even while the frontpiece was busy surfing on top of the crowd half the time), dressed well and not giving off the air of desperation for acceptance that their opener did.
When I rant like this I can’t help but feel like that grumpy old man character Dana Carvey once played on snl. ‘In my day…’ – yeah asshole, in your day everything was better. That’s not what I’m saying though.
So what are you saying?
I’m saying stop being a douche bag, leave your phone in your pocket and holler like a motherfucker when a good band kicks your ass sonically (or in Yow’s case maybe literally, with his cowboy boots as he passes overhead). There’s a ton of new, good bands out there, but there’s a lot of crap too.
And crap is bad.