A Cold-Blooded Night With The Jesus Lizard

Quartet speaks out against the posthumous Frank Sinatra hype while putting on a manic rock show.

NEW YORK -- Singer David Yow puts his hands in his pockets and

paces the stage like a professor in front of a blackboard.

He is, at once, in and out of character.

By the second song,


"Cold Water" (RealAudio excerpt), off The Jesus Lizard's new record,

Blue, Yow is shirtless and far from professorial. The bass begins to throb.

A whirlwind of sound blasts; the song is "Gladiator," the place is Irving Plaza

and this is The Jesus Lizard.

"The biggest drag about Frank Sinatra dying is not that he died but that

you can't go anywhere without having to fucking listen to him," Yow drawls.

"You know," Yow muses Sunday night, looking down, "these were, at one time,

Frank Sinatra's pants." And he unzips them treacherously low for a killer

rendition of "Sea Sick."

But he never gets completely naked.

Still, the crowd consistently erupts into a cacophony of shouts and whistles and

hoots. New York City, a town not known for its emotional displays, gives it all up

for the Lizard.

And it goes on from there. Yow hurls himself over five enormous bouncers and

into the crowd, which passes him around. When he is deposited back on the

stage, singing all the while, civilians are also crowd-surfing and the pit has

turned into a swimming, disorganized mass.

Yow looks oddly like a small, dark and sweaty Liam Neeson, as in the actor.

Duane Dennison is playing a guitar exactly the same hospital-green color as

his drink wristbands, and soon he's transformed from a smooth, stylish guy to a

sweaty rock-god himself. On bass, David Sims, dry and cool, rocks forward and

back, eyes fixed in the rafters, pounding away at his strings. New drummer Jim

Kimball is right in on the groove.

All four guys look like they're willing and able to play forever.

They play it all, from "Bloody Mary" to "Sea Sick," "Monkey Trick" and select

songs from the records Shot and Blue. Andy Gill (Gang of Four)

produced the latest album, which includes some artier tracks that don't feature

Yow's Tasmanian-devil voice so prominently. Live, these songs leave the

audience puzzled but attentive. Then the band plays a Dicks cover and

pandemonium ensues again, guys body slamming, punching at the air.

And while the scene soon turns into a delirium of smiling faces and excruciating

groans, punk rock is, after all, all about love and hate all smushed together. Still,

there are those who don't always get it. "I never understand those guys that

stand up front, throwing their shirts onstage, slamming around one minute, that

scream 'Fuck You' at the band the next," says Gloria Chase, 30, of Manhattan,

who said she has been in pits before but on this night stands toward the back.

Openers Stanford Prison Experiment are met with slightly colder shoulders. No

one dances, but there is loud applause for their set, which includes the almost

poppy single "Compete" from their new release, Wrecreation. SPE

vocalist Mario, suffering from a severely sore throat, shows signs of strain

halfway through the set but still finds the voice to push the new LP. "We've got a

brand-spanking new CD in the lobby," Mario says. "If you're into it, check it out."

But, in the end, fans were not so much interested in SPE, and Yow had more

imaginative ideas to dream up for his audience.

During the second encore that follows the 25-song set, the singer steps off the

stage and comes back with an adolescent boy under his arm. The guy is soon

hanging upside down, legs hooked over Yow's arm, reaching from behind to

clutch his belly for support as Yow finishes the song. The kid is triumphant,

launching himself off the stage, beaming.

Rumor has it that Yow dislocated his shoulder three days ago.

"Once again, David Yow proves he's the hardest-working man in show

business," says Will Simon, 28, of Hoboken, N.J. (which, coincidentally, is the

birthplace of Frank Sinatra). "But I didn't appreciate that comment about Frank."