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Radical Nostalgia: The Jesus Lizard and the Butthole Surfers

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It was a hell of a week for old post-punk college-rockers in Los Angeles, what with former Husker Du guitarist Bob Mould at the Troubadour and Mike Watt of the Minutemen/ fIREHOSE playing the Redwood in the same five-day period that saw return visits from two of the major acts from Chicago’s legendary Touch & Go label. The Jesus Lizard and Butthole Surfers were two of Independent America’s most beloved bands, renowned for their abrasive, yet oddly classicist records and consciousness-altering live shows. Both rose to alt-rock prominence, got signed to major labels in the 1990s, occupied early-afternoon slots on the Lollapalooza main stage and received major endorsements from Kurt Cobain (a split single with Nirvana for the Lizard, a tour-opening slot for the Surfers), then lost the plot around the end of the decade. And both ended up in LA for reunion tours within a few days of each other.

Prior to the Jesus Lizard’s reunion, vocalist David Yow had noted in interviews that audiences should not expect to see him take his pants off anymore. “I’m forty-nine now, no one wants to see that.” But any fears that their astringent wine may have mellowed with age were put to rest as soon as the curtain rose, and Yow took a running start before launching himself toward the audience. Bands with a reputation for physically intense live shows sometimes fare the worst on the reunion circuit, but this one has apparently stayed in good shape during its eleven-year lag, and damn if this wasn’t a good night like they used to have good nights.