"Lightning Bolt is the best live band, right now."--My friend Pete Swanson
Providence, Rhode Island's Lightning Bolt, with Brian Chippendale on drums and Brian Gibson on bass, is, according to Load Records, "the loudest band in the world." The thought that any band could be louder than their bill mate, Thrones, is pretty unbelievable, but Lightning Bolt's bass rig is rumored to put forth an output of 3200 watts.
Other machines with 3200 watts: an offshore oil rig, a wind generator, a Balliu DC035 diffusion cooled CO2 slab laser sheet metal cutter.
The Phantazm Competition Audio Speaker Project, also powered by 3200 watts, operates on 38 separate speakers. My stepbrother once took me to an audio contest, in which a bunch of guys built their own car speaker systems and competed to see who had the loudest rig. The guy who won turned the bass up so high that the thumping popped open his eardrums, and blood trickled out of his ears. He was generating such noise from a paltry 2800 watts.
So the thought of seeing Lightning Bolt, with Thrones, with Oakland's Pink & Brown*, seems vaguely frightening. Do you want really to acquire tinnitus (the perpetual ringing in the ears due to loud noise) before you even reach the legal age to rent a car? Do you want your eyeballs to bulge, your body to vibrate from Lightning Bolt's intense improv metal, from Thrones' one-man static hardcore, from Pink & Brown's searing, fraying avant-metal? To add to this dilemma, there is the nightmare factor: a couple of these bands wear outfits. Now, I'm not talking about the kind of over-the-top, cheese-blood get-ups Gwar dons. No, this is far subtler. Pink & Brown are the most intense, taking their cues from Spiderman and Mexican wrestling, with psychosexual masks that cover their entire heads. Do you remember in the Twilight Zone Movie, when the lady was talking too much and the creepy kid melted her mouth into her face, so there was just a straight flap of skin from her nose to her chin? It reminds me of that--not quite B&D, but a similar, gimpy monstrosity that plays into the deepest fears of the psyche. Lightning Bolt, who live in a warehouse called Fort Thunder, are not as overt; their drummer wears a mask, singing through a microphone rigged within, so you can't understand what he's saying, but you know that it sounds like a meat-grinder.
You want to see these bands, and risk your hearing, and get freaked out by their freaky costumes because, not only do they put so much effort and love into just being themselves (even though being themselves would surely frighten small children and dogs), but because their musicianship is exceptional. Too often, deconstructionist, arty speed-metal gets a bad rap by the non-diehard because of its volume. But these bands use time changes, chord progressions, and melodies that switch and click in a matter of seconds, all propelled by their purveyors' absolute power. Pink & Brown's Pink, also of Tarentel and Lumen, tightens his strap so his guitar is pulled high up on his chest, close to his chin, even. Why? Because, although his amp is loud enough to send sonar through the ocean deep, Pink's guitar work is so fast and complicated that if he lowered his guitar at all, his hand would be unable to master the contortion necessary to play the notes.
I haven't actually seen Lightning Bolt, but I've heard the stories. They're mythical. My friend Pete, who saw them in Boston, said (with wild eyes, I might add), "The drummer jumped off the bass amp, landed on his drum seat, and went right into the beat." Another person I know said the last time Lightning Bolt toured the West Coast, they played seven shows in the Bay Area, and his friend was called a poseur for only attending two. See? Mythical. Scary, but so were haunted houses in grade school. You went for the thrill.
*Not to mention our dearly beloved Emergency, for whom this is the last show--you must go.