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Last night, deep in the boroughs of Brighton Avenue in Denver, Colorado, a colossal juggernaut of power seared its way through the brains of a couple hundred lucky concertgoers. The venue was Rhinoceropolis, a garage that has become an indie staple for DIY shows in Denver, and the band was none other than Rhode Island demon-chasers Lightning Bolt.
Comprised of bass wizard Brian Gibson and guerrilla drummer Brian Chippendale, the duo of Brians managed to conjure up a racket that was at times unholy, at times inspiring, and consistently brilliant and thrashing. Donning his usual Slipknot-by-way-of-Candy-Land styled mask (think “The Dark Knight Rises'” villain Bane meets a kindergartener’s craft project,) Chippendale sat down at his drum kit on the floor and with a brief introduction, began obliterating eardrums.
Charging through an epic version of “Sound Guardians” from 2009’s “Earthly Delights,” Lightning Bolt set the tone for the show with a slightly blues-infused take on their usual sound. The drumming was nothing short of furious, and Gibson’s twisting of cowboy sounding licks into monstrous Philip Glass-ian mutations of sound were a lot to keep up with.
The room where Bolt played was packed to capacity. Standing in the room was something akin to being a water molecule in a shaken up Nalgene bottle, with every body frantically being thrown around in a haphazard attempt to fill every crevice of space. The mask Chippendale wore hid a microphone wire, which spun various echoes and distortions into his frantically yelping voice.
As the songs snowballed in intensity and Chippendale’s haunting vocals became distorted beyond any human form, the body slamming grew out of control. At several points the crowd smashed into the band’s equipment. Fortunately, as Lightning Bolt seems to be one of the more professional of garage bands, when the bass pedal would get stomped or the kit would collapse, the remaining band member would have a riff ready to jam on and keep the energy up while the other repaired their setup.
After one song Chippendale encouraged members of the audience towards the back to “release their dinner” and try to suck in their tummies as much as possible so that the band members and concertgoers would all have room, but it was obvious that the band was extremely used to this type of performance.
After the slower more groovy jam of “8-Note,” the band finished their set on the gooey rush of “Megaghost” off 2005’s “Hypermagic Mountain.” Segueing between ascending monster riffs and an extremely pounding metal bridge, the band brought the energy to its highest point of the night before saying farewell and descending into the audience to hang out and talk with fans after the show. Both of the Brians could not have been nicer. Chippendale, in particular, happily talked to fans about their tour and what they were working on, even recommending other bands.
Seeing Lightning Bolt live was more akin to a full-body transcendental experience than a concert. The primal energy of the show balanced with the terrifyingly silly elements (such as the sock mask) conveyed the band’s philosophy perfectly. Similar to like-minded alternative groove band Battles, the music Lightning Bolt makes may be intimidating to first time listeners, but at the heart of the band is an extremely lighthearted cartoon version of metal.
Finding its place between punk, noise, hardcore, and indie, Lightning Bolt’s approach to minimalism as maximalism is refreshingly exciting in a world where most rock bands are happy to repeat the same Jimmy Page riffs that have come before them for decades. Even after almost 20 years of churning out their special brand of rock and roll, the Brians still manage to bring an utter joy to their music that is truly a gift to see.
Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Sam Goldner at Samuel.firstname.lastname@example.org.