Two’s company

Dynamic duos: Lightening Bolt, the Body, and more
By BOB GULLA  |  February 27, 2007
SETTING THE PACE: Lightning Bolt.

When Lightning Bolt debuted oh-so-many years ago, it’s pretty likely they had no idea what kind of zany spell they’d cast over the city’s music scene. Two guys, thrashing away, closing the rock star chasm of band/fan by ditching the stage and playing right on the floor surrounded by people. It made sense . . . This was music for everybody. Why put it on a pedestal? And with only two people — two friggin’ noisy people — everyone could get in on the secret.
Now, I’m not gonna get started on some studious dissertation regarding the origins of the two-person band, and I know there are probably lots of examples out there that I’m missing. But let’s be honest. Providence has more of these acts per capita than any other place in the universe, and it’s not because the ones doing it today are inspired by the Captain and Tenille. Athletic Automaton, Tiny Hawks, Killdevils, and Mahi Mahi come immediately to mind — not that they share many sonic similarities — as bands that have followed in the bloodied footprints of Lightning Bolt. Another two-piece, the Body, a bludgeoning, blissed-out, guitar-based act built to shatter eardrums, is the band that started this rant. On Friday at AS220 they’ll headline a show assembled by the good people at B Sharp Music, which also features Mega¬sus, a metal act with Jason Kendall (Amazing Royal Crowns) and Brian Gibson (Lightning Bolt).
Anyway, what is it about these two-piecers that have made it a trend in Providence? Is it that bands don’t have to hire another stupid-ass bass player? Is it because there’s more room in the van and less gear to haul? Is it too complicated to write music for a quartet? Drummers must dig two-pieces ’cuz they don’t have to worry about stepping on anyone’s toes. Pound away and stay heavy on the ride. Right on.
But there are just as many limitations to playing in a two-piece as there are advantages. Any two idiots can book a stage, go in front of an audience, and beat the crap out of their instruments. It’s not that I mind noise — I grew up listening to the Melvins, and even they would have horrible gigs. With only two people, bands must struggle to find material captivating enough to entertain. The Brians in Bolt know what makes a good two-piece rock song. But there’s a fine line between quality and quantity. If an act feels rudderless, style-less, and purposeless, a savvy audience can see through it. A good two-piece, like any band, has to be nimble. They have to purge whatever skepticism exists in the crowd and start building the chemistry, which is probably why LB plays in the audience. There’s a direct link between their excitement and their fans’. As a two-piece pioneer, Lightning Bolt is good at gauging excitement and measuring out its punishment, and they can take you from noise to excitement to trance in a hurry.
The Body is slightly more in the traditional rock vein than Lightning Bolt. Where the Bolt comes from an indie underground angle, like Sonic Youth and the Birthday Party, the Body takes their cues from the distorted, downtuned walls of sound of Sabbath and Blue Cheer. Either way, when it’s done right it can have the same captivating devastation.
In the end, it’s cool that Providence has gained a reputation for this kinda thing. It goes hand in hand with our noise-rock legacy. Still, it’s exhilarating to hear two guitars lock in with a rhythm section. Even in the shadows of the city’s local rock scene, it’s nice to occasionally hear a familiar sound.

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