Legendary postpunk band the Jesus Lizard roamed the earth between 1989 and 1999, laying waste to anyone who ever saw one of their devastating live shows. Singer David Yow, an iggy pop incarnate with crazier stage antics, spent half his time on top of the crowd, contorting, howling, and infecting the audience with madness, while being backed by a well dressed band of musical surgeons who carved up odd time signatures with chords so spread out that a normal person would need two hands to make them.
They of course, never played Miami. The closest they came was at the Edge in Fort Lauderdale in 1993, when they opened for Helmet - and annihilated them. This was partially due to their booking agent's odd distaste forthe magic city. For in their formative years, the lizard played every dump in: North America, Europe, Japan, New Zealand and Australia. But they never went south of west palm beach (where they headlined respectable street cafe in 1998), because their agent, Dave "Boche" Vicelli, couldn't be bothered. This lame attitude has kept most of his acts out of south florida, and if one manages to trickle in, it's a one off deal, unless they are a support act.
Boche's argument is that South Florida in general, and Miami in particular, doesn't have a rock scene. But that's simply not true. We most certainly do have a rock scene -- but what we dont have is what I experienced in Philadelphia at the Starlight Ballroom last night. I rocked out with a packed room in a dicey neighborhood that doesn't ordinarily host shows. A mixed crowd with twentysomethings, thirtysomethings and fortysomethings rocking out to the same band. An all ages venue with a bar that does a good business and isn't stupid about it. A promoter who actually does stage security at his own show, because he knows if he doesn't do it right- no one else will.
But most importantly - what I saw was The Jesus Lizard. Even with the 10 year layoff, they remain one of the most potent rock bands in history. Yow remains, even at 49, a stage diving maniac - a rodeo clown who fronts a sophisticated rock machine. He flies the freak flag. Bassist David Sims bludgeons the audience with basslines so heavy, that his bass actually recoils from his phrases. Drummer Mac McNeilly may look silly wearing click-track headphones, but he pounds like Gene Krupa. Guitarist Duane Dennison rounds out the quartet with spaghetti western lines that pierce armor and chords that could make someone in a coma slam dance.
Even rock cliches that suck 99% of the time worked tonight. Drum solo? check. Yow conserving energy by doing a silly Ozzy Osbourne impression? check. Letting maniacs in the audience decide out the (seven song, double) encore by yelling belligerently? check.
"You may think we're some sort of singing group" Yow said halfway through the show. "But I encourage you to think of us as your life coach."