(Photo by Sam Ashley)
If you ask me (and I know you probably didn’t but I’ll tell you anyway), the spirit of punk rock has always been about two things: 1.) keeping it simple and 2.) rocking the fuck out. By those standards, Lightning Bolt are punk as fuck.
Guitars? Who needs ’em? Lightning Bolt get by with just a bass and a drum kit. (And it’s worth pointing out that they were doing this years before Death From Above 1979, who are awesome in their own way, but not as original, not as weird and definitely not punk as fuck.) Stage diving? Sorry, kids, there’s no stage.* Lightning Bolt prefer to set up right on the floor, with a bunch of Marshall amp stacks as their backdrop. The fans crowd around the band in a seething semi-circle that someone on YouTube aptly described as looking like “psycho-spermatozoa assaulting an epileptic ovule.”
So that’s the punk part. The weird part? That mostly comes courtesy of drummer/singer Brian Chippendale. Early on the band’s development, Chippendale solved the problem of how to be a singing drummer when you drum like you’re having a seizure in a pretty brilliant, makeshift way: He took the microphone out of a telephone receiver** and secured it to his face using a hood that looks sort of like a cross between a Mexican wrestling mask and something one of the guys from Slipknot would wear. Oh and did we mention he drums like he’s having a seizure? So yeah, watching Chippendale do his thing is pretty riveting stuff. The bassist, Brian Gibson, makes up for his more pedestrian stage presence mostly with volume. Those Marshall stacks aren’t just for show.
Lightning Bolt have made a handful of freaky music videos over the years, but the best way to experience their music is still live. (So we hear; we haven’t had the pleasure.) So here’s a clip of them rocking it live at a show in France in 2008. Vive le noise! Or something like that.
*Apparently, at some of their more recent shows, Lightning Bolt have finally started playing on stages. “Some of these shows have gotten too big and ridiculous, and that’s why we move to the stage,” Chippendale explained in an interview with The Stranger. “It’s just not fun or safe. Kids who complain when we play on the stage, I tell them sorry you missed it”—”it” being the “play on the floor” days of yore.
**Sorta like our hero, Bob Log III.