I was surprised to see Lightning Bolt on the list of upcoming shows when I checked the Grog Shop's list of events one day back in the month of May. Firstly, I didn't know they were touring. Secondly, why Cleveland? I'm always surprised to see bands actually coming to my town. Sometimes, it seems so small and insignificant, and like a city devoid of fans of good music. While not everyone at the show is actually from the area, the turnout just seemed to be too many people for such a band. Since when is this kind of racket a fairly big draw? Maybe the rock I'm living under is too big, and I don't know what I'm talking about. Either way, I couldn't entirely believe that Lightning Bolt would be in Cleveland and that the crowd was as big as it was.
However, the opening bands of the night seemed to speak to the relative popularity of noisy business. Self Destruct Button kicked off the festivities, bringing the weirdness right away. I couldn't exactly put my finger on their sound, but it was pretty good. I wondered what it would sound like recorded, since it was quite peculiar, but I imagined it wouldn't work (and if the band's myspace is any indication, some improvements are in order). I truly enjoyed the band's set, as it reminded me of wacky noise punkers like Melt-Banana and Arab On Radar, but was dismayed to find that they didn't have any recordings for me to purchase (vinyl only? Is it a money thing?). Guess I just have to check them out live again.
Then we get to Clan Of The Cave Bear. I told in another review of how I feel about this band, though I feel the need to repeat myself (I did get their name wrong last time, sorry). I was entirely bored during their set. The set-up is guitar and drums (the guitarist was also in SDB), they sound almost exactly like Orthrelm, and they just can't seem to write a memorable song. I like and am accustomed to noise, lack of structure, sound experiments, etc., but what's the point if it doesn't stick? There needs to be something that grabs your attention, and a million jagged riffs without anything tying them together doesn't work. I was pleased that their set was the shortest of the night.
So, when I see a name like Megachurch, I expect the worst. Some band mocking gods and stuff, as if that's anything new? Take a hint from every metal band ever and get some new subject matter, whydontcha? And to boot, they don't sound so far off from the night's headliners. Despite all these Negative Nancyisms, I really dug Megachurch. It was kind of like Lightning Bolt with two bassists, but not so abrasive, and a heavy emphasis on sludge and groove. Their music is fun and pleasant, and the soundbites they use are actually clever and meaningful. I picked up the EP available and I'm happy to say that it captures their style and sound quite well.
I've been listening to Lightning Bolt for a long time. I kind of fell out of touch with the band on the last album, but since I knew I was going to this show, I made sure to acquaint myself with 2009's Earthly Delights. I sure was missing out last year. I was super-impressed by how interesting this batch of songs is, and naturally, psyched to hear them live. The set turned out to be a mixed bag, with me not recognizing a few of the songs (my guess is that they were Hypermagic Mountain jams, not my fave album).
2 Morro Morro Land
Nation Of Boar
I could not quite believe how the crowd reaction to this band. Why in the world was there moshing? This is not metal, or punk even. I didn't expect it. There wasn't even this much moshing when I saw Boris, or Converge! Perhaps it's a response to the intensity of the music, since you could certainly feel that. The band was ridiculously loud and they swiftly and efficiently banged out the tunes. Not much in terms of banter, or vocalizings. "Colossus," a song I was unimpressed by initially, was the highlight for me as it's true vertiginous character revealed itself in the live setting. The performance of "Dracula Mountain" felt like something I had been waiting for for years. It made my night to hear that classic tune and really reminded me of what initially made me a fan of the Bolt. The song was elongated and slowed down, which extended the experience. At that moment, it just felt right to get into the pit and shove around some sweaty dudes (it smelled so foul and I was winded so quickly).
The end of the set brought on chanting for an encore, but the request was sadly not obliged. How could they have improved after the finale, anyway? Answering my own question: only if the band had shirts. I want a Lightning Bolt shirt. What's with the lack of merch, dudes? I know Fugazi never had merch, but bands could use the extra revenue. I'd gladly fork over some dough if the merch looks cool. And Brian Chippendale's album art is awesome; they could easily translate that to excellent merch. Perhaps a DIY Lightning Bolt shirt is in order, if this dire situation isn't rectified soon.