#47. I met The Jesus Lizard (Tampa, New Orleans, 1999–2019)

The best live rock band of the 90s.

Three wild pieces:

  1. Live in Tampa, 1999

Having occupied New Orleans for 20 years now, I’ve seen more concerts than most people on Earth will ever see, and still I declare that the romantic pre-internet 90s were a fucking important time in music. And the Jesus Lizard were the best of that era’s rock bands.

The band’s main attraction, David Yow, is a hilarious maniac — the type of ultra-wild frontman that almost couldn’t exist today without getting MeToo’d. Everyone who ever attended a Jesus Lizard show has a personal David Yow story, because he made a point to attack each audience member individually.

The first couple Jesus Lizard shows I saw in Florida on accident, I found hard to understand. Didn’t get it, didn’t like it. But by the third show, I fell in love and henceforth drove wherever I had to drive to catch them. In 1999, my own band’s incredible big redhead bassist Jack booked them at The Rubb, this amazing club he ran. An indy club, but as nice as a House of Blues, The Rubb was both sweet, and also tight. My subversive redhead friend — the greatest redhead I’ve ever known, if I’m to be honest — ran this high-end motherfucker like a boss for a year or two, filling its sweet soundsystem with the tightest drum-n-bass, alt-rock, and all kinds of other potential money-losers that he managed to spin into success. Jack curated a music calendar not coincidentally customized to the same opinionated views he presented at band practice. We were all in heaven witnessing, up close, Pavement, Sunny Day Real Estate, Prince Paul, Ween, Tricky, Common, DJ Spooky, KRS-1, Cut Chemist, June Of 44, Rony Size with a live d&b band, and maybe the best show I’ve ever seen, The MakeUp in 1998. Plus a million others. Jack provided as many of these “famous people” stories as any publication I’ve worked for.

I remember invading the Jesus Lizard’s dressing room at The Rubb as they gathered steam for their show. We didn’t bug the band, or even say hello, just stared at them across the room while drinking their backstage Makers Mark. I knew this was wrong, stealing whiskey from David Yow, who clearly used it to fuel his over-the-top performances. But such is youth.

When the concert started, our guitar player, Angie, my girlfriend at the time, held a giant glass of Makers Mark. This makes no sense, as Angie was half Chinese. My Asian friends throughout the course of my life just cannot drink. A couple can but… The drunkest I ever saw Angie was after three Rolling Rocks, no bullshit. Her cheeks flushed after the first one. By the third she seemed to almost be in blackout. She was also amazing at math. If facts make me racist, so be it.

Though we hadn’t bothered the Jesus Lizard in their dressing room, David Yow must have recognized us, or his Makers Mark in Angie’s hand, because once the show got going and the sweat started flowing, he jumped off the stage and attacked little 98lb Angie. The cup went flying out of her hand and the Maker’s splashed everywhere as Yow dragged her to the ground. Both small and almost evenly matched, the two of them rolled around on the ground for a solid minute. I worried for her, but had seen Yow do so much crazy shit over the years that I didn’t think to step in and stop him, even though it sort of looked like they were making out.

When the song ended, Yow released her and jumped back onto the stage and announced to the audience, “That was Andy. Somebody get Andy a drink; some asshole spilled her drink.”

I found the mispronunciation of her name hilarious, but was disturbed to find out they’d been talking while wrapped around each other like that. She told me that when he’d tried to kiss her, she bit his neck instead. I felt like a bit of a cuck, because it was all, admittedly, kind of hot.

Though that doesn’t count as me meeting the Jesus Lizard.

2. On a bus, 2013

I wrote about badass Jesus Lizard guitarist Duane Dennison and his specially-made, extra-light aluminum guitars, for Premier Guitar magazine, when he came to New Orleans to play VooDoo Fest with his side project, Tomahawk. In order to interview him, I walked onto Tomahawk’s tour bus, past the band’s singer Mike Patton (Faith No More/Mr Bungle) and drummer John Stanier (Helmet/Battles). People freak when I tell them I’ve met Patton, but I was there because Dennison was in the motherfucking Jesus Lizard.

In the back of the bus, Duane and I discussed his aluminum guitars. He let me play his — an honor. I then handed Dennison his guitar, and turned on my video camera. He said something like, “What Jesus Lizard song would you like me to teach you?” and then suddenly my camera’s fucking battery died. (Click here for that sad video).

3. David Yow with Flipper, New Orleans, 2019

I finally met the world’s greatest booze-fueled frontman just last year in New Orleans’s French Quarter, when I went to see the legendary band Flipper, specifically because David Yow filled in for departed vocalist, Bruce Loose.

Prior to the show, I sat in a booth enjoying a Maker’s Mark in Yow’s honor. Though David Yow is not a celebrity, I felt warm inside every time he walked by our table.

When the show seemed about to start, I finally stood up and walked over to him and, not nervous at all, said quite honestly, “David Yow, I don’t want to take up your time or embarrass you, but I did want to real quick tell you that I love you, and that I’m really glad to see you again.” He seemed to appreciate this, and we both went in for a surprisingly tender hug.

He didn’t attack anyone that night.

Michael Patrick Welch’s “132 Famous People I Have Met” series is FREE, but please consider donating to his VENMO (michael-welch-42), or to his PayPal account (paypal.me/michaelpatrickwelch2), so he can feed his kids, pay his mortgage, etc.

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