Lightning Bolt Shakes The Round at Thalia Hall

By George Chiligiris

Thalia Hall was full of strange sights and sounds on March 21 thanks to Rhode Island noise rock combo, Lightning Bolt. For those who don’t know about Lightning Bolt’s eclectic setup, the band consists of just 2 people on bass and drums. The duo combined surpass the noise threshold of most full-band lineups. Think “Death From Above” thrown into a bag of angry cats. Brian Gibson’s bass is fed through enough distortion to fry any metalhead’s brain, and drummer Brian Chippendale is one of the most fast and furious percussionists in the business.  The two have been making beautifully harsh sounds together since the mid-90’s, and their combined cacophony has never been stronger. The duo fuse elements of punk, noise rock and metal with their own sense of artistic whimsy that brings a fun level of ridiculousness to the whole affair. The band often eschews the stage in favor of playing “in the round”, smack dab in the middle of the audience. This keeps them in tune with the crowd in a way that most bands can’t touch. Those closest to the group often have to form a closed circle to keep the rest of the pit from spilling onto the stage once the action starts. 

Once Chippendale and Gibson took stage, the crowd exploded into a frenzy. Thalia Hall is mostly known for booking less aggressive indie acts, so it was fun to let loose in what’s normally a pretty reserved venue. The band kicked things off with tracks from one of their more recent LP’s, 2015’s “Fantasy Empire.” Each song starts out with feverish intensity, with Gibson’s lightning (pardon) fast bass runs leading the charge. Chippendale’s pounding bass and snare keep the audience jumping and moshing constantly. When it seems like it can’t get any more hectic, the band gets faster and then faster still. This goes on until the crowd doesn’t care about the beat anymore, it’s only about matching the group’s impossible energy. 

Highlights of the set included the track “Mega Ghost”. The song starts off with effects riddled squeals from the microphone inside Chippendale’s mask. It quickly descends into madness with laser-like chromatic leads and punishing cascades of drums. The track ends with one of the most powerful grooves the band has ever constructed that had the entire pit bouncing in unison. The night ended with a fan-favorite, the political and propulsive “Dead Cowboy.” The song was initially written about the Bush administration’s involvement in Afghanistan. Chippendale took a second to address how the song’s meaning has become more layered, and yet, more confusing for him in the current political climate. The 8 minute sprawling noise epic siphoned every last bit of energy from an already beat-up crowd, and was a perfectly discordant end to the evening. In 20+ plus years, the band hasn’t lost any steam and has gained absolutely no regard for the well being of anyone’s eardrums; and that’s just the way we like it.

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