Gods of Thunder
Thank You, Masked Men: Lightning Bolt make some noise at Tarantula Hill. (Click to see more images)
Photos by the City Paper Digi-Cam
Fort Thunder-based Force Field tipped its urban tribalist hand right up front. As two group members crouched over electronics on either side of the darkened room, they screened a film featuring several masked figures carrying torches down what looked like a sewer tunnel. As the figures on-screen reached the foreground, they stumbled across what looked like an old analog synthesizer, whereupon they began kicking it like the mystified apes from 2001: A Space Odyssey run amok. A barrage of oscillating electronic squeals and quasi-psychedelic animation followed; after a brief break, four group members (clad in the same grandma-sweater masks worn in the film) joined together for a half hour of strangely compelling dancing, impromptu wrestling, and shouting over a distorted, stripped-down electronic thump.
Wearing the de rigueur mask, drummer Brian Chippendale of headlining Fort Thunder ensemble Lightning Bolt started setting up his kit in the center of the room while Force Field's squall was still dying away. Bassist Brian Gibson quickly took his place in front of a half-dozen mismatched speaker cabinets stacked up to the size of a double-door refrigerator and the duo immediately launched into a frantic barrage of ecstatic rock noise. The band's recordings (most recently its Ride the Skies album on Load Records) are no preparation for its live assault. Chippendale hammered out hard and fast beats buffeted by spasmodic change-ups, while Gibson's tinny bass blared out chopped-up prog-y riffs (hammer-ons!) that made him sound like Geezer Butler one minute, the low end of a cathedral pipe organ the next. There are tunes to some of Lightning Bolt's tunes--"St. Jacques" ghosts the melody of "Frere Jacques" over Chippendale's maximum-warp pummel--but the emphasis is clearly on musical frenzy. Lit from below by a single green light and obviously playing at the limits of his endurance in the hot, close little room, Chippendale seemed ready to either keel over or levitate. He teetered there, thundering away, until, dripping with sweat and panting, he finally asked, "Is that enough?" The crowd, standing 2 feet away, made plain it wasn't, so the band played some more.
Lightning Bolt plays the Ottobar on July 12.
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