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Lightning Bolt - Garage, London, 18/5/2006

  by Jamie Rowland

published: 23 / 5 / 2006

Lightning Bolt - Garage, London, 18/5/2006


Tongue-in-cheek American drum 'n' bass duo Lightning Bolt recently toured Britain to promote their fourth album 'Hypermagic Mountain'. Jamie Rowland watches them play a manic show at the London Garage

The Garage is exactly the sort of venue you want to see Lightning Bolt in, small and dark enough to make it feel like you’re watching some secret gig in your mate’s basement, but large enough to know you’re not going to die from being crushed between two fat sweaty rockers. I arrived full of optimism for a gig I was sure was going to be one to remember; having been a fan of Lightning Bolt for a number of years, and believing their fourth full-length ‘Hypermagic Mountain’ to be one of the best albums released last year I was full to the brim with anticipation. The only support act for the evening was Magik Markers, whose droning post-rock noise was really atmospheric, and I would imagine fantastic to hear on record, but suffered live from an overly-long performance. When you can’t really dance to a band’s songs, it’s hard to take a solid 45 minutes set. Still, Magik Markers made enough of an impression to make me want to hear their recorded work later on. When people had arrived at the venue, a small area of the floor had already been cordoned off in front of a wall of speakers and a pre-set up drum kit. People raced to find a space as close to the cordon as possible, so they could see all the action when the band finally came out to play. I had managed to get myself a space one person back from the space in the floor, and had a good view of the whole area. It was from here that I had watched Magik Markers, and it was here that I waited what seemed like an age for Lightning Bolt to appear. The number of people crushing together to try and get the best space was creating fantastic heat in the tiny venue, and my decision to keep my jumper on when I arrived suddenly seemed a big mistake. Eventually, drummer Brian Chippendale arrived from backstage. He retrieved from a bag a purple and green felt mask with jagged cut-out eye holes. Wires protruded from the heavily gaffa-taped area around the mouth, getting lost in the spaghetti-pile of wires and pedals at the base of the drum kit. This is more than just Chippendale’s microphone; it’s another instrument, and it’s part of the fun – a lot about Lightning Bolt is tongue-in-cheek. Chippendale, now securely fastened into his mask, started banging away at a tiny synth drum while recording and looping his distorted voice whooping and human-beat-boxing. The crowd started to move to the strange music being produced as Brian Gibson made his way into the small clearing to set up his bass. The instrument in question is a pretty strange one; tuned to cello standard tuning, with a banjo string for the high A, it runs through a number of pedals, including a whammy pedal, two overdrive pedals, an octaver and a delay pedal. When Gibson started attacking the strings, the sound was like thunder put through a fuzzed-up amp. But louder. The crowd was surprisingly calm for the first song, just nodding their heads and tapping their feet. From my position, I got a good look at the band in action; Gibson’s hand moving up and down the fret board with tremendous speed, and Chippendale’s drum sticks moving so fast it looked like he was hitting his drums with two lengths of spaghetti. But this was my one and only good look at the band playing, because, as soon as the two Brians went into their second song, the crowd erupted into a mass of pushing, shouting, jumping lunatics, and I was lost in a sea of sweaty bodies, and loving every minute of it. The one word I can use to describe a Lightning Bolt gig is mental. It’s absolutely the most insane gig I’ve ever been too; the loudest, the hottest and one of the most enjoyable. You don’t even care that you only see glimpses of the band throughout the show; the top of a bass, a drum stick rising up and then quickly disappearing again. All that matters it the hammering noise that just engulfs you completely and reverberates through your whole body, but manages to somehow maintain the hint of a melody. The best reaction from the crowd came from ‘Dracula Mountain’, one of Lightning Bolt’s most accessible tunes (if you can really call any Lightning Bolt “accessible”), but I was most pleased to hear them play ‘Dead Cowboy’, in my opinion one of the most brilliantly composed pieces of music in the last few years. If you ever get the chance to see Lightning Bolt play, don’t pass up on it; it’ll be one of the most exciting and enjoyable things you’ll ever do. But take my advice: don’t wear a jumper.

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Lightning Bolt - Garage, London, 18/5/2006

Lightning Bolt - Garage, London, 18/5/2006

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