[AMERICAN GLADIATORS] In the '90s, Chicago's the Jesus Lizard earned its reputation as "the best live band anywhere." It also recorded half a dozen noise rock albums full of menace and wild creativity. The band combined the cacophony, sweat and swagger of Nick Cave's Birthday Party with the black-diamond focus of AC/DC. The Jesus Lizard frontman David Yow spent plenty of concert time offstage, swimming naked in a sea of denim and dirt, always somehow managing to deliver his garbled ravings like a punch-drunk sailor.
"These shows are freaking me out," says Yow of the band's reunion after 10 years. "In Turin, Italy, they screamed and yelled for over 35 minutes before we even got onstage. I've never had that happen before." Surprising, considering the Jesus Lizard played something like a thousand shows between 1987 and 1999, landing a deal with Capitol Records in the process. "It was a three-record contract," Yow explains. "And after so long after the second record, they finally said, 'You know, you don't sell any records. You can go.' It was at that point that I called our manager and said, 'I quit.'"
The band stayed broken up until Mike Patton (Faith No More, Mr. Bungle, etc.) invited the Jesus Lizard to play the All Tomorrow's Parties festival earlier this year. The opportunity to play with original drummer Mac McNeilly was the clincher for Yow. "I hadn't seen Mac, 'the real drummer,' for probably 12 years," he says. And in that time a new generation had discovered the band, its stage legend and its classic albums Goat and Liar (both recently reissued with care by Touch Go).
So does Yow believe he can still deliver a show that backs up his reputation? "It probably is more difficult," he admits. "I'm 49 years old. But I've been going to the gym (laughs)." On the subject of recording new material, he is not so glib. "The Scratch Acid [Yow's first band with the Jesus Lizard bassist David Wm. Sims] reunion taught me to quit saying 'never.' But I can't believe that we're gonna do that. I have no desire to write new Jesus Lizard songs." And as for future tours? "I think we'll finish up in November in Chicago. I'll bet you a nickel that's the end of it."
The Jesus Lizard plays the Crystal Ballroom on Thursday, Oct. 22, with Black Elk. 9 pm. $22 advance, $25 day of show. All ages.