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Chicago's Pitchfork Music Festival explodes
with noisy prodigal sons The Jesus Lizard

The Jesus Lizard / Built to Spill
(Pitchfork Music Festival)

Union Park
Chicago, IL
July 17, 2009
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Review and photos by Tony Bonyata

Nearly 10 years since their demise as a band and a dozen years since performing on their Chicago home turf, noise merchants The Jesus Lizard made a grand - if not explosive - entrance for the debut night of this year's Pitchfork Music Festival at Union Park. Amid the band's first jarring notes, singer and crowd antagonist David Yow, with microphone in hand, leapt into the crowd like a man possessed. As he was swallowed and spit out by the band's fervent faithful in the front, Yow growled and yelped amid the post-punk-metal cacophony that thundered out of the sound system from original bandmembers guitarist Duane Denison, drummer Mac McNeilly and bassist David Wm. Sims.

It was a welcome hometown return for the band and turned out to be one of the most anticipated and rewarding shows of the three-day festival. With long thinning strands of hair, Yow plunged himself back into the masses a couple more times through their set and instead of breaking a hip (like most his age would've), the 48 year-old cracked countless devilish smiles as if he wondered how he could have ever left the band in the first place. Delivering fan favorites from their seminal early '90s albums Goat, Liar and Down (all on Chicago's Touch and Go record label), a healthy number of the more than 12,000 in attendance barked along in loving approval with Yow's guttural moans and strange tongues.

This was a tough act to follow, even for headlining rockers Built To Spill, who's melodic indie rock spiked with impressive and monumental guitar interplay proved a bit too sedate for many who just witnessed The Jesus Lizard's incendiary jackhammer performance. While a few of their songs ambled on too long for their own good - with some just stopping short of turning into some sort of hip cousin to a jam band - the musicianship and dynamics, ultimately, saved some of these meandering moments. Likewise the band's laid-back, introverted stage presence - clad in beards and baseball caps - hardly matched the unhinged ferocity of Yow and his band earlier that night. But then again, guerrilla stage antics have never been a part of this influential indie rock band's fiber. Just a shame they couldn't have a played a bit earlier, before most of the energy and adrenaline had been sapped dry from much of the audience.

Related articles:

Summerfest 2007 (Built to Spill) - Photo gallery - Milwaukee, WI July 2007
Lollapalooza 2006 (Built to Spill) - Festival review - Chicago, IL Aug. 2006
The Jesus Lizard - Blue - Album review

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