Anaphylactic Shock for the Hootie Set
The Jesus Lizard with Stanford Prison Experiment The Starfish Room Vancouver, B.C. Wednesday, January 28, 1998
Review by Dorothy Parvaz Photography by Rodney Gitzel
'Twas a quiet Wednesday night, the boys were out and the testosterone was running free -- a perfect night for a hard-core show. Good thing the Jesus Lizard were in town. There was this ominous sort of vibe at the Starfish Room -- the staff had erected barricades in front of the stage, which isn't something you see all that often at the Starfish. Oh, and, of course, the show sold out.
The most remarkable thing about the opening band was their name, Stanford Prison Experiment (as in, that twisted little academic faux pas back in '71, where an experiment on prisoner-guard role-playing turned a bunch of otherwise peace-loving hippie college students into brutal thugs). Their music wasn't bad, but it was pretty standard stuff... pounding drums, heavy bass, guy with shaved head wildly flinging his arms as he yells about anger and pain, kind of striving for that Tool/Rage Against the Machine feel... you get the picture.
Stanford Prison Experiment sounded like a bunch of other SoCal hard-core groups, and the singer's voice didn't work well with that abrupt, choppy delivery characteristic of the new school punk sound. And their lyrics... Oi. But maybe that's the point. Maybe the words are supposed to suck.
Then there's the Jesus Lizard. They're not meant to suck... they're meant to wake you from your Hootie and the Blowfish coma, take you by the hand and lead you into anaphylactic Son of Sam shock. Frontman David Yow kind of scares me, and I like it. He looks like a compact bully... not too big, but kind of strong and mean-looking. He grunts and stomps around the stage like the mad man that he is, delivering rather frightening lyrics. He comes off like a (to borrow a line from Dazed and Confused) "male dominate monkey motherfucker" -- and my, does he ever do it well.
As it turned out, the crowd didn't get out of control at all... there was a crowd surfer here and there, and it was Yow himself who ended up being tossed and passed around more than anyone else. It was quite impressive, the way Yow would just optimistically fling himself into the audience, all the while singing as he was being passed over people's heads, rarely missing a word. Yow seemed sober, which is a rarity, but despite being more subdued than his reputation, he definitely earned his keep as a stand-up, hard-core kind of fella.
The band did an awesome job of "Then Comes Dudley" (a song Yow said was written for them by Bryan Adams -- guess sociopaths can be funny, too), and their drummer (was that Jim Kimball, shorn of his pretty bleached-blond locks?) was incredible... aggressive and precise. Yow's voice got so hoarse by the fifth song that you couldn't really tell what he was saying anymore, but that only added to the music. Then again, a good dose of tortured howling and growling pretty much carries the same sentiments as songs like "Karpis" and "Din."
"She sits in a tub and relives / Stories she never lived / And it makes me feel blank / It makes me feel blank like I missed / She lays in bath with no water / A tub full of blood / How happy are you to be alive?" asked Yow, leaning into the audience like a spitting, sweating mongrel. One look at the writhing mass in front of him, and you'd have to say that they were damn happy to be alive.