Terror Fest Review: Daikaiju, Lightning Bolt

Four-alarm dose of masked mayhem

“We thought training in the north would make us stronger in the Texas heat,” declared Lightning Bolt drummer Brian Chippendale amid the Rhode Island duo’s ear-searing headline set at Empire Garage on Saturday night. “It worked. We’re the strongest people here!”

Brians: Gibson and Chippendale (r) of Lightning Bolt, 6.8.19 (Photo by John Anderson)

That intentionally inflammatory statement proved especially bold on this hot night when the experimental noise duo was – for once – not the wildest band on the bill. Two hours earlier they’d been out-freaked by Daikaiju.

Formed 1999 in Birmingham, AL., and currently based out of Houston with at least one member from Austin, the usurping instrumental rock daredevils began their set performing on the pavement in front of the stage, not unlike many Lightning Bolt shows. Encircled by audience members, the four kabuki mask clad musicians bashed out their Stooges-meets-surf-rock sound in a primal blowout of guitar and drums. The final 20 minutes of their show proved all-out mayhem.

Daikaiju’s Afro'd leader, known only as “Secret-man,” proved the first to rise above the audience – crowd surfing over to the venue’s bar to down a couple liquor shots. From there on out, his feet never touched the floor. He stood atop the bass drum and played his fuzzed-out Squire Strat as the audience clapped in thunderous unison. His astonishingly agile riffing continued as he got endlessly passed around the pit.

A floor tom, a snare, a cymbal, and a throne then got hoisted aloft, followed by a masked drummer who played a drum solo scaffolded by the outstretched hands of attendees. This isn’t a totally novel signature move – Israeli destructo-rock trio Monotonix previously used human limbs as a drum riser – but the difference was that Daikaiju still sounded good while doing it.

Then came the fire.

Spraying lighter fluid on the cymbals, tall flames rose from the in the middle of the crowd as three members now hammered different parts of two drum kits. Secret-man glided back into the fray and ignited his guitar, holding it up high in conflagration as onlookers howled at the instrumental sacrifice. Gripping the flaming axe by the neck and pointing southward, he crowd-surfed to the back of the venue, jumped down onto the concrete, and ran out the exit and up Seventh street with burning guitar in hand.

Phones were out, jaws hit the floor, and grins of “how in the fuck can anyone follow that?” pervaded.

After a set by industrial pop act Tr/st that served as a change-of-pace to say the least, Lightning Bolt struck. It was an instant reminder how mental their music is. They overload your brain and make your body feel good , an achievement evidenced by hordes of fans gleefully crashing into each other, fists in the air, moving to a sound that’s simultaneously terroristic and jubilant.

Chippendale doesn’t play the drums, he beats them down and his vocals – sung into a mask outfitted with a microphone – are more of a noise instrument than a device for amplifying lyrics. The group’s genius, bassist Brian Gibson, makes his bass sound like anything but a bass. One of their interludes on Saturday sounded like you were listening to “Flight of the Bumblebee” while having brain surgery without general anesthesia.

For 55 minutes, the duo’s proprietary strain of screeching experimental-noise-basement-punk-grind-jazz both delighted and demanded the attention of a large crowd gathered for Terror Fest’s second night. Daikaiju had been more of a spectacle – and they gave you the rush of challenging your own personal safety – while Lightning Bolt asserted themselves as impressive musical renegades. Unintentionally, they complimented each other perfectly.

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Daikaiju, Lightning Bolt, Austin Terror Fest 2019, TR/ST, Brian Chippendale, Brian Gibson

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