In July 1993 we traveled north and east from the Philly 'burbs to erstwhile Trenton-based punk club City Gardens, where we saw abrasive, in-your-face and loud sets from The Jesus Lizard and New York quartet Helmet. Chicago-based The Jesus Lizard was supporting the release of the live set Show and the forthcoming Down. At that point our only familiarity with the grindy band was the fact that it had released a split single with Nirvana and had a reputation as being a volatile live act. By the end of the show we and our posse were more familiar with dynamic and almost dangerous fronter David Yow than we could have possibly expected. First, Mr. Yow picked our compatriot Lars' nose on stage when Lars tried to turn a stage dive into an opportunity for a handshake with his idol. Secondly, at one point Yow dropped trou, turned to face the drum kit and exposed... well -- it may be worse than you are thinking, but not much worse. We remember wondering if a law had been broken.
Anyway, when we saw that MVD was releasing a live DVD of The Jesus Lizard largely recorded a year later in October 1994 (some bonus material was recorded two years prior at CBGB's) we jumped at the chance to see it, as it is as close as we can get to reliving the chaotic set we had scene those many years ago in Trenton (motto: "Trenton Makes, The World Takes"). The fact that the set on the DVD was filmed (with different camera angles, to boot) in our adopted home of Boston, Mass. at the now defunct Venus de Milo club (which, incidentally, had hosted Radiohead's first U.S. show ever about 16 months prior) is icing on the cake.
The performances on "The Jesus Lizard -- Live" are easily as compelling as the live spectacle we recall. We found ourselves almost flinching as Yow launched himself into a crowd like so much snotty, sinewy ordnance when watching the video (a reaction typically only elicited by watching collegiate wrestling). The performances of "Bloody Mary" and "Nub" are particularly demented. While the trio playing instruments impressively lays down angular, ball-and-socket tight grooves worthy of much attention, it is hard not to focus on the antics of Yow. He spends the set wrestling the front rows of the audience. He crowd surfs, paces, spits and picks his nose, pausing between tunes to pull off of bottles of Budweiser. He demeans fans wearing earplugs, demands certain audience members are ejected, gets someone else's blood on his pants and holds his vocal mic to the bass cabinet. In short, he acts like the madman everyone told you about. Imagine if you took a speared bull from the bullring and dropped it in the first few rows of a hardcore show -- that's the sort of mayhem Yow creates. It makes for great video -- and you can watch a clip from the DVD right here:
The disc also includes a pretty interesting interview with Yow and Boston radio personality Shred. They discuss how The Jesus Lizard rebuffed advances from Atlantic Records by demanding huge amounts of cash for one record deals (the band ultimately signed to Capitol later in the '90s). Yow also goes off on how MTV sucked in 1994 and how the network demanded The Jesus Lizard edit its videos -- we can only imagine what Yow must think now. Attentive readers will recall that the Lars mentioned supra caught up with Yow's latest efforts as the vocalist for Qui in January; here is Lars' review of the show.
"The Jesus Lizard -- Live" was released June 5. You can buy it from Newbury Comics right here.
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