So loud your skin will melt

If you’ve ever wanted to meet Portland’s fire marshal, you might as well see a rad show while you’re at it.

If you’ve ever wanted to meet Portland’s fire marshal, you might as well see a rad show while you’re at it.

Providence, R.I.’s cacophonous Lightning Bolt is headed down here by way of Seattle, and it’s not going to be pretty. However, it will be pretty awesome.

Known for kooky stage antics that consist of setting up shop on the floor, wearing goofy masks (which only serve as a vehicle for a homemade phone receiver microphone), blowing out eardrums and getting their shows shut down, Lightning Bolt is far from conventional. In fact, Lightning Bolt started out as a three-person improvisational band that toured the country, in the words of the members, “just playing.” The idea of recording an actual album hadn’t even occurred to them until two years after they had formed. Even after that, they preferred not to record in a studio, cutting several finished tracks from their first release in favor of previously recorded live cuts.

That is to say, the place to catch the band is live, and the recordings nary do them justice.

LB is comprised of bassist Brian Gibson and drummer-cum-vocalist Brian Chippendale. Chippendale is often referred to as various hyperactive things by different people, usually involving the words “child” and “caffeine.” Though he’s the drummer, Chippendale is easily the most active member of the band, throttling his drum kit throughout a typical Lightning Bolt set. Gibson has a lot to worry about however, as he tunes down to standard cello tuning and often substitutes banjo strings for bass strings of the same size.

When Lightning Bolt plays, it sets up on the floor, which immediately draws the crowd into the show, where the Brians stir up a black hole that doesn’t let up until seconds following their set, after the shock has worn off. This black hole consists of quacky, crushing bass lines, frenetic sweat-flinging drumming and lots and lots of decibels. In fact, you’d be well advised to bring a set of earplugs, or at least a tissue to wad up and stuff in your ears. Lightning Bolt is about as loud as shows get; and there are many low frequencies battering you about the head and face.

The last Lightning Bolt record came out two years ago—2009’s “Earthly Delights,” only the second of five Lightning Bolt albums to be recorded entirely in a studio. The first of the two was 2005’s “Hypermagic Mountain,” which is considered to be Lightning Bolt’s best album to date. As you’ll note, the time between these releases is four years—mostly because Lightning Bolt keeps so busy on the road and with their Providence artist’s commune, Fort Thunder.

The two Brians met at the Rhode Island School of Design where they originally formed Lightning Bolt with a third member: Hisham Bharoocha, who handled guitar and vocal duties. Eventually, Bharoocha left to form a band that would later go on to become electro-noise outfit Black Dice, which left the Brians without a singer. Not to be defeated, it was Chippendale who stepped up and handled vocal duties despite his unhinged style. As such, Lightning Bolt’s vocals border on the edge of the human voice as an instrument itself, rather than discernable lyrics. This isn’t to say that Lightning Bolt’s lyrics aren’t there—they are—it’s just difficult to make them out as Chippendale is throwing his entire body at his drum kit.

If you like noisy, excruciatingly loud punk rock, all while having a chance to meet a real live fire marshal, you are greatly encouraged to make a dash to Holocene early to catch this one. Better yet, head over to and get in on it early, as this show is likely to sell out. Just don’t forget to factor earplugs into the cost of your ticket. ?