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the Jesus Lizard, the Garage, London, 10/10/98

(Warning: The following review contains a stereotype of the British people which happens to have been positively reinforced through a series of situations experienced by the reviewer. Actual interactions with the British are not guaranteed to resemble those represented below.)

I love the British. I love them for their bland foods, strange sandwiches, and overcooked, soggy vegetables. I love them for their occasionally excessive politeness. To wit:

Taxi driver, upon realizing he didn't have change for the 20 pound note we handed to him: "Terribly sorry about the inconvenience."

Airline counter person when I did nothing but hand him my ticket and passport: "Thank you very much, indeed."

Most of all, I love them for their wonderful expressions that we seem to lack over on this side of the pond. Where to start? Let's see - how about when I was ambling through Portobello Market taking in the mounds of Victorian tea caddies and antique brass bits, the alternating smells of fresh bread, fruit, and sausages, and the crush of people from all corners of the world, when suddenly a speedy bloke came careening down the street and nearly toppled an elderly shopkeeper into his collection of ancient manuscripts and brass telescopes:

Elderly shopkeeper: 'ey! Watch where you're going, you!

Careening bloke: Shut up, eh?

Elderly shopkeeper: Sod off, you stupid git!

And if 'git' hadn't suited him, he could chosen from a broader portfolio of 'knob' or 'wanker', depending upon the severity of his feelings toward his inconsiderate assailant. I love that. Very much indeed.

Which brings me up to the show. The Garage, I have to say, had the least atmosphere of any club I've been to lately - basically, a large, nondescript room in which everything was painted black (I'm sure the Stones would love it). However, what it lacked in ambiance it made up for in amenities - namely Guinness and Dry Blackthorn cider on tap, and Hooper's Hooch in a convenient bottle-sized serving. But maybe that's important to me only because our uncivilized US clubs aren't similarly well-stocked with such goodies.

I was surrounded largely by pleasant, polite Brits with a preponderance of piercing, who blended into the surrounding umbrance and the black background in their mostly black garb. Then, the light buzz of conversation and happy chuckle of Saturday night were abruptly suspended by the emergence of one Mr. David Yow and the rest of the Jesus Lizard team.

"This is a song we wrote, called 'Puss'." And with that, just after the first guttural blast erupted simultaneously from drum, guitar, and bass, Yow launched himself off the stage into a sea of waiting arms which carried him round the audience like a strange forest of sturdy kelp while he yelped a barrage of unintelligible lyrics for the duration of the song, at which point he was plopped unceremoniously back on stage.

Such shenanigans were a bit of a stark contrast from the general politeness of the crowd, but not out of character for Mr. Yow, who recently scored victory in a somewhat infamous 'beer can suit'. It seems a woman at one of their concerts was struck in the face with a beer can which Yow had hurled from the stage - still full of beer. Anyhow, using the questionable defense of 'people who attend our concerts should know that they may be subject to physical damage', he managed to win the case.

Yow et al. marauded forth with the precision of a fine Swiss timepiece, the deep, shaking grind of a California earthquake, and the uncontrolled swagger of a drunken Texas roughneck. True to form, Yow was heavily sauced, handily consuming several different alcohols on stage, fueling his shambling dance, a continued torrent of sweaty journeys out over the audience, and a never-ending stream of vocals which blended together like so much audible finger paint.

Through that whole display of unsavory behavior, and despite some very active moshing up near the front of the club, the crowd managed to keep their politeness more or less. One very sweaty chap who emerged battered but triumphant from the front ranks managed to stumble up to me and ask nicely, "Pardon me, do you have the time?" I love the British.

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