SAN FRANCISCO -- The Jesus Lizard vocalist David Yow stumbled onto the
stage of the Bottom of the Hill on Saturday while members of the opening act were still
removing their musical gear.
Disheveled and apparently under the influence, Yow swayed before the crowd, grasping
a mangled microphone that he had broken against his palm. Gripping a mic stand in
order to stay upright, he wobbled about as the rest of the Lizards scurried onstage.
Just as he began to fold, Yow was jolted by The Jesus Lizard's blasting punk-rock
The fast, punishing musical barrage of "Puss" slapped Yow in the face and, in seconds,
he was airborne, flying into the crowd as it exploded in a frenzy of shoving and moshing.
Soon, he was lost in a sea of flailing arms and tangled bodies.
As Yow was pushed back onstage, guitarist Duane Dennison fired off the opening riff of
Can Learn" (RealAudio excerpt), from the band's latest album, Blue. Yow
closed his eyes and began ranting into his microphone. The lyrics were indecipherable,
yet delivered with violent abandon.
After almost two hours of violent chaos, including a blistering encore of "Mouthbreather"
and "Monkey Trick," as well as the crowd's favorite, "Wheelchair Epidemic," the Lizards
walked off the stage as the sweaty fans made a mad rush for the front door and fresh air.
While this show was as much a melee as it was a musical performance, it seemed to be
just what the band's fans were looking for. "There were so many moments ... ," gushed
27-year-old concert-goer Spencer Mack. "I have seen these guys a ton of times and this
is the place to see them. In a small club, their energy is incredible."
The Chicago-based The Jesus Lizard, who have been creating this kind of rock chaos
for almost 10 years, show little evidence of slowing down. Their two-night stint at the tiny
Bottom of the Hill was part of a month-long North American tour that wraps up July 21 in
Des Moines, Iowa.
And if Saturday's show was any indication, the Lizard have a lot in store in the coming
Progressing through the set, Yow and his mates dug into their earlier albums for
material. The staccato guitar noise of "Gladiator," off 1992's Liar LP, sent Yow
surfing back into the crowd. As the patrons pushed and shoved near the stage, the room
began to fill with the smell of beer, sweat and something less definable ... something
It truly was survival of the fittest. A concert-goer was pushed to the floor, helped back up
and then pushed to the floor again. Yow managed to stay on top of the crowd for most of
the song, but as the music died out, he was visible only as a single cowboy boot
protruding from the teeming audience.
With new Lizard James Kimball wearing a perpetual scowl and pounding like a madman
on the drums, the band quickly ran through "Killer McHann," "Landlord" and "Deaf as a
Yow was deposited back onto the stage again, where he fell, slurring to the crowd, "Tell
us how motherfucking good we are!" The crowd responded with screams, whistles and
fists raised with index and pinkie fingers extended in a moronic "rock 'n' roll forever"
The band fired up the blistering "Boilermaker," from Liar, and Yow dived into the
crowd again. As he was being carried all the way to the rear of the club on a stream of
fists, he screamed, "Put me down, you fucking shitheads! I hate every fucking one of
And then he quickly added, "I mean that in the nicest possible way."
None of this behavior was particularly surprising. Yow is notorious for his stage antics.
The band recently was sued by a Texas woman who claimed that she was hit by a beer
can allegedly thrown by Yow. (The Jesus Lizard were not found liable for the woman's
injury; the singer testified that he would never throw a full beer can into a crowd.)
In addition, Yow was arrested in Cincinnati for exposing himself; and the band has been
banned from performing in Seattle after disregarding that city fire marshal's warning
However, none of that served to tone down Yow's behavior. As the band
began to play "More Beautiful Than Barbie," from their 1996 album,
Shot, Yow allowed his jeans to slowly fall down, revealing the
very thing that had gotten him into trouble in Cincinnati.
With his thing still protruding, Yow tried to dive into the crowd again. But this time, his
fans seemed noticeably less enthusiastic about his antics.
While Yow was a messy performer, his bandmates proved to be tight, precise rockers.
Bassist David Wm. Sims created perfect slabs of growling bass notes, while Kimball's
drumming was furious but exacting.
Dennison stood stock still during Yow's tirades, carefully dispensing layers of white
noise and syncopated guitar riffage.
Thankfully, this is a Lizard with three working legs.