One week after Northside ripped its way through Brooklyn, I was still feeling depleted, in need of some R&R. So I did what any rational human would do and went to see a Lightning Bolt show in an old warehouse turned art space in Red Hook. If you ever had any doubt if fatigue can be cured by pulverizing, firestorm tornadoes of thrashing noise I can assure you it’ll do the trick.
The sweat soaked event was part of a concert series at Pioneer Works, a non profit arts center in Red Hook. Part of an exhibition called “Grand Ole Opera,” bands perform on a stage that shares the floor with the art pieces. Featuring trailers with spooky VHS video art playing on cathode ray TVs inside, a stuffed deer sitting in front of red neon lights, and an old truck, the artists seem to be playing with some southern stereotypes, cheesy horror flicks on tape, and having bands they like (Deradoorian, Sleep, Wolf Eyes) play throughout the exhibition.
Friday night’s lineup also featured freakout electronic trio Kill Alters – kind of a Guerilla Toss meets Animal Collective vibe – and Twig Harper, a mad scientist using gestures and analog synths to make sounds many would have trouble qualifying as music.
The scene was what you’d expect. Beers were cheap, there was an immersive art video of two dudes beating the shit out of each other, there were t-shirts for drone music tours in the crowd, a Marshall amp was scratched out to read “harsh”. “They’re just the most organic experience in music I’ve ever seen,” I heard one fan say. “I like live music, sure, but I don’t go to just any old shows,” says another.
The last thing I remember of the night was thinking, “fuck, I am scared shitless.” I was front and center, pressed against the stage when the two Brians that make up Lightning Bolt came on stage. A minute or so of fumbling with tuning, a mask, tuning a drum, and suddenly everything is pandemonium. The drums are like Buddy Rich fused with Dave Lombardo and ate a whole bottle of amphetamines. The bass guitar ceased to be a bass guitar and instead became a doomsday weapon, one that ripped open a hole in the universe and let the interdimensional chaos flood into our weak, human existence. The audience became possessed, flailing, mouths agape and eyes rolling back, feet kicking me in the head as bodies roiled in the terror.
If I’ve ever sweat more I can’t recall when. Bodies streamed out of the warehouse in various states of shock. Overheard as I stumbled toward the exit:
“I think I broke my leg…”
“That fucked up my ears forreal”
“That wasn’t as hardcore as that band DIIV, though.”