Yep, this is about how we remember it. Recorded in Boston in October 1994 — back when the Lansdowne Street club between Axis and Bill’s was known as Venus de Milo; back when local radio personality Shred (seen at the end of this DVD conducting a pre-show interview with frontman David Yow) still had hair — this is the best filmed evidence of what was, for a few years anyway, the world’s most dangerous band. Guitarist Duane Denison’s surgical, textured abstractions of punk’s extremity carried the melodies — but those were so many sweet nothings, window dressing. Drummer Mac McNeilly, in his skivvies, and bassist David Sims, yanking his shaft in the air on the downbeat: here was the fist and the ass. And then comes Yow. Two songs in, you could mistake him for a rational, if excitable, human. But then the madness grabs hold, and by “Boilermaker” he’s become feral: shirtless, sweat-drenched, busted nose, blood spattered on his jeans, barking incomprehensibly, spitting bile, clawing his way through bodies. At one point, he reaches into the crowd to pull out someone’s earplugs; seconds later, he’s being pelted by a hail of them. A metalhead is seen being dragged out of the crowd, semi-conscious. Yow, face scrunched into a mask of disgust, screams something incomprehensible and dives into the front row. No frontman save Iggy Pop made rock and roll such a test of physical endurance. It’s bittersweet to recall now how great the Lizard were at the top of their game. At the end of this video (which also includes five songs from CBGB circa 1992), you see Yow telling Shred he wouldn’t sign to Atlantic for $5 million, but soon after they signed to Capitol for far less and promptly disintegrated. Most of the indie underground followed soon after.
The Jesus Lizard Live Screening + Gang Green | Middle East downstairs, 480 Mass Ave, Cambridge | June 5 | 617.864.EAST