I guess I should start off by saying that I’m an unapologetic fan of music. That is, music that I love. Hell, as an example, I flew to Austin during last year’s SXSW on a week’s notice SOLELY to see Mayyors perform three times in two days. So to me, The Lizard’s reunion was not about reliving old times, but simply doing something both fleeting and intensely genuine. So when The Jesus Lizard announced their reunion tour early last year, there wasn’t much of a discussion (at least in my own head) as to whether I was going to see as many shows as I could or not. In fact, not much changed from when I was seeing the band back in 1990 or so. I was convinced that they were the best live band in the world back then, and well…. Let me just put it this way, if at their first reunion gig at ATP they weren’t that great, I wouldn’t have gone to another show. Period. However, I just KNEW that the band wouldn’t reunite if they couldn’t kick ass. I just knew it. So when they took the stage at the upstairs room at Butlins, I won’t lie to you…. It was without a doubt one of the most beautiful moments of my life and there was an entire room of people who agreed with me.
Over the past couple months, I’ve had no shortage of people asking me to rattle off my reflections of all the shows I attended. And well, this document has been sitting in on my desktop for about a month and so I’ll try and sift through all of this as best I can.
• I don’t know how rich/drunk/stupid the people were at these Lizard gigs, but I was consistently astounded by how casually people would pop their iPhone or expensive camera in the pit to take a photo of Yow 3 feet from them. Great. You get a blurry photo of a rock concert. You win. Here’s a revolutionary idea: Why not just actually ENJOY the show and visit some OTHER assholes blurry photos on flickr later? Additionally, how can people get upset when their glasses get knocked off at a show such as this? I’ve been wearing glasses for almost 30 years and have never once asked a crowd to stop and help me look for them. That’s the price you pay, four eyes. Get used to it. Lord knows I have.
• The opening bands were generally pointless. What about the army of bands that would stab their own mother in the face just to open? What about the bands that used to open for them (Pegboy, GVSB and Arcwelder come to mind)? What about something that’d add to the bill instead of just padding the bill out? Anyway, I don’t want to sound like I didn’t give all the bands a chance, but it definitely got difficult. The exceptions to this personal observation were Hex Machine (Chapel Hill), Double Dagger (Baltimore), All The Saints (Atlanta) and Disappears (Chicago). Just my two cents.
• The audience cried while the band played for the first time in ten years. Very intense.
• Cornering The Jesus Lizard’s booking agent and asking him point blank how he could accuse me of stealing a bottle of Maker’s from the Blues Explosion 15 years ago (an event he admitted he didn’t personally witness). His smug deference was only outweighed by his inability to let such an falsehood go and be what he’s used to to smear me since then.
• Convinced Adam R and Pat M to fly from Chicago to see the show. I immediately drove them to Hog Heaven and, true to form, their worlds will never be the same again.
• Halfway through their set, I got booted in the melon by Yow and then nose bloodied by same boot a split second later. These things happen.
• The reunion tour debut of Duane Denison’s "Smokey and the Bandit"-style moustache.
• Without a doubt the smallest room of the tour. I wasn’t the only one to notice this, but it seemed like half of the crowd was photographers and they were either hovering over the stage or actually ON the stage. Aggravating.
Fonda Theater/Los Angeles
• Although they were advertised as such, I was crushed to find out that Killdozer wasn’t (nor were they ever planned) to open the show.
• After not seeing him for 14+ years, I ran into old pal Tom Zaluckyj (from Tar) and the first words out of his mouth were "Of COURSE you’re here." I also met long-time buddy Jason Pettigrew face-to-face in the lobby for the first time. Judging by the amount of people who came up and said hi while Mr. Pettigrew and I were talking, it would’ve appeared as if I was campaigning for office.
Cat’s Cradle/Chapel Hill
• This was the show that I discovered that there were three rotating set lists. Tonight was the "A" as denoted by the letter in the top right hand corner of the set list. When asking Sims what the next show (Atlanta) would be, he said "Now Henry, what’s after ‘A’?" Regardless of the predetermined set lists, the flow every night was spectacular. My only regret is they didn’t do the "Tight’N’Shiny" transitioning into "Seasick" which was always a favorite.
• I had a healing/hugging moment with Pitchfork/Indy Week’s Grayson Currin outside the venue (long story). Kids, just remember, Henry Hugs(tm) cure EVERYTHING.
• Got to see a love letter/photo that Pen Rollings left for Mac backstage
• Convinced Yow to fly to Isla Mujeres with his girlfriend for R&R after the two Chicago shows in November. Judging by the texts he sent me after he went, it apparently did the trick.
• Although it’s a minor criticism, I still think that the Masquerade would’ve been a better choice than this converted movie theater.
• Got in. Saw the show. Zipped out. Yow’s britches were decimated by the end of the gig!
• Upon the band (or rather Duane) deciding that the club-appointed DJ was going to drive him into further insanity, Yow offered up his iPhone as the de facto DJ for the remainder of the evening. Three songs in, his phone rings and his ring tone (and subsequent voice mail notification) fills the 9:30 Club sound system. Classic.
• I saw audience members escorted out of the venue for trying to start ANY sort of movement in the crowd. Whereas I thought they should’ve received a medal for trying to liven up the otherwise dull crowd, the 9:30 staff opted to keep the people motionless. Assholes.
• I got to shake hands with Pen Rollings!
• I got to see my brother-in-law (who hadn’t previously heard The Jesus Lizard) in the pit.
• The band dedicated "Mouthbreather" to me on my birthday!
• First time I’d ever seen them in their home town. As with every time I step foot in Chicago, I’m persistently challenged (in my head, at least) as to why I’ve never moved there. The NYE gig, which clocked in at 5 below zero with the wind chill, reminded me why. My balls receded immediately and have still yet to poke back out.
• After being dropped by a couple spindly fans in the audience towards the end of their first November show and seriously injuring his ribs, Yow still came out to perform the next night on a stool. Seriously, the guy deserves a medal for stage diving the one time that night.
• By the time of the New Year’s show, Duane shaved his ‘tache off. Regretfully, Sims’ goatee remained. Accountants. What do you expect?
• After the NYE show I saw Jim Kimball (openly vented as persona non grata in TJL interviews) backstage talking to Mac and then turning the corner to see a drunk Yow draped over Mac’s daughter.
Stuff That Happened More Times Than Notably Notable
• Mac’s drum solos which seemed to get more ferocious the fewer gigs there were left.
• The band laughing over the preposterous nature of their booking agent’s persistent (and improbable) accusation of me stealing a $12 bottle of Maker’s 15 years ago at a Blues Explosion gig that he never actually witnessed and who is still unable to LET. IT. THE. FUCK. GO.
• Thanks to people who came up to me to say hello or thanks. Fans of the magazine, fans of the blog, fans of comedy. It was incredible. There were so many people that it’d be hard to mention everybody, but sincerely, thank you. And for all of that, I’m humbled.
Best Record Store Stops (When I Had Time)
Thirsty Moon (San Diego), Vacation (Los Feliz), Grimeys (Nashville) and Permanent (Chicago-TWICE!). Due to shitty weather in the Mid-Atlantic, I wasn’t able to go to AKA or PRX in Philly or my other usual haunts in Baltimore or DC. Such a drag.
And so with all that out of the way, allow me to personally thank The Jesus Lizard (I can’t remember all their names….Fred, John, Mac, their all latino horn section whose names I can’t remember, and Mr. Dave? My memory is foggy….) for being so fucking unbelievably nice and accommodating to me as I politely showed up at shows to celebrate how incredibly incredible they continued to be. Additionally, I’d like to thank their sound men (Whitney and Peter, most notably), the show promoters, the clubs and, yes, even their booking agent, for making 2009 the year I got to have a lot of fun all over the globe courtesy of a bunch of old dudes playing young dude music.