The Jesus Lizard’s Testicular Fortitude

How much naked fury is left?

Back in the '90s, when the mighty Jesus Lizard roamed the planet, frontman David Yow—among his other (typically drunken) onstage antics—was hardly averse to whipping out his dick and balls and twisting them around like he was making a balloon animal. But backstage in England earlier this year, just minutes before the quartet's original lineup was set to play its first show in more than a decade, Yow was feeling a bit less fearless."I was puking before we went on, and it wasn't because I was drunk—I was really, really nervous, honest-to-God terrified," the 48-year-old singer says over the phone from Los Angeles, where he's lived since the then-Chicago-based Jesus Lizard disbanded in 1999. "And, you know, I sort of intended to not take my shirt off because I'm old and decrepit and I didn't want anybody to look at that. And then we got onstage and like 10 seconds later my shirt was off and I was in the crowd at the first line. I had no control, and it was a fucking blast.""It was very intense emotionally," adds guitarist Duane Denison from his home in Nashville. "I remember we opened with 'Puss,' and right from the get-go, David was flying through the air and people were yelling and screaming and it was just like, 'Here we go! This is what I was hoping it would be.'"Yow's penis didn't make a public appearance in the U.K., but from all accounts the shows were dynamite; YouTube evidence proves the band's as potent, gnashing, and pugnacious as it was in its heyday. Well intact are the menacing grooves concocted by the pummeling rhythm section of bassist David Wm. Sims and drummer Mac McNeilly, and the abrasive twang-punk from Denison's guitar is right where it needs to be. As for Yow, who's somewhere between Iggy Pop and GG Allin, he's half-naked and buried amid flailing limbs, pulling himself back to the stage for a momentary breather and some hilarious banter before launching himself back into the violent maelstrom.Though The Jesus Lizard was still a formidable live band when they called it quits a decade ago after a 10-year run, the departure of McNeilly following 1996's Shot (he was replaced by Jim Kimball) is what really sunk the group."I always considered none of us replaceable," says Yow. "I think the single most important ingredient in any band is the chemistry between the people in the band, and if you change that, the great likelihood is that [it] isn't gonna be as good. And so when Mac left the band, I really didn't wanna do it anymore.""We could have milked it if we'd kept it going beyond that, but without Mac it just wasn't the same," Denison concurs. "And I feel like it had run its course. When we first started, we were very close. When you're younger, don't you like to think of your favorite bands, like, 'I wonder if they go fishing together? I wonder if they all drive around together and get drunk?' We did! All four of us lived in the same place—four guys in a three-bedroom place. We traveled together, and then we came home and we lived together. We wrote songs together. We did everything together for years. And then people move out, they get married, they get their own circle of friends, and you just sorta grow apart and you grow up."Following the split, the foursome spread out across the country. Lucrative offers to reunite poured in all through this decade, and for a while all the members fiercely resisted the notion. Three years ago, the idea of The Jesus Lizard playing their old label Touch and Go's 25th anniversary festival in Chicago was floated, but Yow and Sims instead briefly re-formed Scratch Acid, their somewhat like-minded pre-Lizard band, to play the fest and two other shows (including a final gig here in Seattle)."As far as I recall, Mac had never been into the idea of doing a [Jesus Lizard] tour, and there's no way I would do a reunion thing with The Jesus Lizard unless Mac was playing drums," Yow says of that decision.Denison, however, remembers it a little differently. "The reason we didn't play? I was never asked, and neither was Mac. I'm completely over it now, but at the time it kinda rubbed me the wrong way. Maybe we would have done it, but it probably worked to our advantage not doing that because it might have stolen some of the thunder from this."Now the original foursome are finally back together. The impetus for the reunion was a request by Mike Patton (who played with Denison in the post-Lizard band Tomahawk) for The Jesus Lizard to join the All Tomorrow's Parties festival in the U.K. this past December. There wasn't enough time for the band to properly get its act together, so they didn't play ATP, but they began rehearsing in earnest anyway. Now that summer has rolled around, they've signed on for 30-some shows, with more still to be announced. Interestingly enough, both Yow and Denison say they're all getting along tremendously. There's even talk of writing some new material, and they're thrilled that the shows thus far have been so well received."We just didn't wanna embarrass ourselves," says Yow. "I mean, that would be humiliating—to get out there and play and just suck. I want it to be as good and as visceral as we ever were. And I'm not really much of a braggart, but honestly, right now we kick fucking ass."feedback@seattleweekly.com

 
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