We may be sick to tolerate Yow, hands down pants and middle finger to the world, but it’s a pretty sick world sometimes.
McMenamin’s Crystal Ballroom, Portland, OR
An hour or so before departing to see the Jesus Lizard, a friend texted me an old photo of front man David Yow completely naked, holding his erect cock. And though the singer didn’t bare himself completely in that manner during the band’s Portland show, the Jesus Lizard did turn in a punishing 26-song set that featured antics from a 58-year-old man that wouldn’t be condoned in any other setting.
The band had barely launched into the opening notes of “Puss” when Yow propelled himself into the crowd. Floating above a sea of hands, Yow spent a good portion of the show in the audience, twisting and turning as he screamed into the mike. Never once did the audience drop the singer, even after he was slick from sweat.
Playing a career-spanning set in front of a sold-out crowd, the Jesus Lizard maintained a propulsive energy for the entirety of the 90-minute show. Though the band hasn’t put out any new material in 20 years, the show was less about proving Yow and company had anything left in the tank and more a celebration of a musical legacy that remains powerful to this day. “We’re the best band in the world,” Yow said as he panted between songs, reaching for another can of Modelo from what seemed like an endless supply. And in many ways, at that moment, it felt like the truth.
Yow looks like your pervy uncle who gets drunk at Thanksgiving and pisses on the front lawn in view of your Christian neighbors. Dressed in torn jeans and a white sleeveless T-shirt, Yow’s stringy hair barely covered his bald spot. These shows must be brutal on him, being pulled and prodded by the audience, screaming all the awhile. At one point, Yow came out during one of the band’s three encores wearing a hair band with lamb ears. He also reached his hands down his pants, fondled his cock and flipped off the audience. In a time where a potential Supreme Justice could have possibly sexually assaulted someone, such posturing could feel aggressive and scary. That’s what the Jesus Lizard has kind of been about all along.
But Yow likes mischief. During the first set, one of the members of All Souls wished someone in the audience a happy birthday. When the Jesus Lizard began, Yow repeated the good wishes. And continued to do so over and over throughout the set after almost every single song. If that wasn’t enough, Yow decided to crack out 20 or so push-ups at one point.
Yow wasn’t the only draw that evening. Mac McNeilly beat the living hell out of his drums, David Wm. Sims wielded his bass like a wild animal and guitarist Duane Denison matched Yow and his menace. The band ripped through one amazing song after another from “Gladiator” to “Seasick” to “Nub,” closing out each set with gems such as “Monkey Trick,” “Then Comes Dudley,” “Fly on the Wall” and “Dancing Naked Ladies” with Yow shouting, “It’s because you’re sick” from somewhere in the crowd, over and over while the rest of the band departed. We may be sick to tolerate Yow, hands down pants and middle finger to the world, but it’s a pretty sick world sometimes. Rock ‘n’ roll can be a safe place to unleash that sort of aggression. Just keep your hands to yourself.