Brian Chippendale and Brian Gibson, better known as Providence
Bolt, are quite simply the best live band in existance. Having just returned home from a presentation of theirs, I can say this with confidence.
Chippendale plays a drumkit consisting of a crash cymbal, two floor toms, a bass drum, a snare drum and a hi-hat. He plays these drums at breakneck speed, generally with a galloping feel. In his mouth is stuffed a home-made microphone, created from a pre-amp and a telephone mic. It is affixed to the mouth-area of a homemade mask, resembling the mask of a Mexican wrestler. He screeches into this oftentimes distorted microphone during some songs, but many songs are simply instrumental.
Gibson plays an effects-laden bass guitar. He has about seven pedals fixed to a board that he keeps at his feet while he plays. He too plays his instrument at a blinding speed, racing to keep up with and fill in the few spaces left by the other Brian's drumming. Their sound is a twisted amalgam of free jazz, heavy metal and pure noise. An assault on the ear drums, but it is, after all, dance music. So dance, motherfuckers.
Lightning Bolt have released two albums on Load Records. The first is self-titled and usually just called "The Yellow Album." It was re-released on CD in 2001 with two bonus tracks. Ride The Skies was released in 2000 and is a much better representation of the Lightning Bolt experience. The sound is clear and unmuddied--a problem which plagued the earlier recording. In early 2003, they released their third album, Wonderful Rainbow. This album is even tighter than Ride the Skies, and it is similarly clear sounding. The diversity on this album is incredible. There are twisted pop songs, heavy metal riffs and walls of white noise--with all of that, the melodies stay front and center where they belong. They have also released a tour-only 7" featuring three exclusive songs, as well as songs on various compilation records.
As far as being the best live band currently, well... when the show I was just at got too hot inside (I'd estimate about 100 sweaty, sweaty degrees) they decided that, hey, they'd move it into the street! Nevermind the fact that it was around one thirty A.M. and the cops were sure to show up. They convinced the club owner to let them do it by promising that everyone would chip in a dollar for the inevitable fine--many people pitched in upwards of $5. And so the show continued, a stack of amps over six feet tall towered over Chippendale's kit. Extension cords were run inside to provide power. And so they played. And played. And played for about twenty five minutes until they decided to stop from exhaustion. Just as the notes were fading away, two cop cars pulled into the alley. I imagine the looks on their faces when they saw a ragtag group of kids, artsy types and aging punks dancing in an alleyway and spilling out into the street before them.
Lightning Bolt exclusively play on the floor. They often set up in front of the stage (if there is one) during the end of the previous band's set. Chippendale will frequently pick up on the final beat from the earlier band's drummer and will work it as an element into their first song, which starts while the other band is finishing up. Chippendale has also been known to hand out water pistols to sweltering crowds, already soaked in sweat from rapid gyrations, jumping, shoving, falling, and general flailing chaos.
This here, ladies and gentlemen, is a band who has played on a flatbed truck driving around Providence. This is a band who has played secret sets in parking lots after the bands playing inside have finished. This is a band of two genuinely nice men, who also happen to have a penchant for the ridiculous and extreme, and also happen to be extraordinarily talented musicians. If Lightning Bolt come to your town, by all means, see them.