The name Le Guess Who? has for many people become synonymous for breaking boundaries, experimentation and, even in louder genres, for good taste. However, what happened at the tail end of an already particularly noise-laden Friday night when Lightning Bolt took to the stage has nothing to do with all of the above. For anyone who’s already witnessed a live show by this duo before, or who’s heard of their live reputation by now, none of this will come as a surprise. The pair consists of two Brians, Gibson and Chippendale, respectively responsible for bass guitar and drums, the latter also accounting for the vocals. Through a mask that looks like something a serial killer fashioned from the skins of his victims, he delivers his punchy lyrics in a totally deranged fashion, as you might expect from someone who looks like he’s wearing a long lost prop from a Rob Zombie movie.
Text: Wybren Nauta / Photography: Jelmer de Haas
Immediately all sense of refinement and pretense is dropped, all that remains is a blistering assault on the senses fueled by barrages of the duo’s distorted bass and drums. Over the top incendiary noise anthems have become their signature sound over the years, but with the release of their latest album Sonic Citadel they did start exploring some different, slower sonic structures on songs like Big Banger and Don Henley in the Park. Not that this experimentation was lacking on past albums, it’s just whichever turn their music took on previous albums, they’ve always remained a singular entity live, hellbent on destruction. In that sense nothing has changed, the new songs of their latest record that made it into their set like Air Conditioning and the aptly named Blow to the Head only add to their raucous monolithic sound. They don’t seem particularly interested in displaying the full range of different sounds they’ve incorporated over the years or trying to build a certain structure in their set. These could be fair criticisms, but at the end of the night, they simply want to play as fast and loud as possible to an audience that’s looking for some sweet release.
Ultimately Lightning Bolts show is an immensely earshattering performance that feels like a kind of party at the end of the world; except everything’s on steroids and we only literally have mere seconds to live so everything has to happen now, right now. Culturally it often sounds most similar to the bloody-nosed, fist in the air party rock of Andrew WK, only with way more amps and distortion. As the guitars flare up one last time and the mass of people wearily heave their bodies up one last time it seems like the duo hasn’t lost any energy in the passing hour. Like a bull Gibson charges through the crowd, easily cutting a way through the exit, leaving the crowd flustered, beaten, but ultimately feeling elated. It’s something of cliché to describe bands in terms of natural phenomena like “rock you like a hurricane” or “shake your world”, but being named after one Lightning Bolt truly is a force of nature. Like a full force gale they swept across the festival and offered closure of the most destructive kind. What’s not to love?