When last night’s show first started, David Yow, the Jesus Lizard’s elemental front man (“singer” just doesn’t get to it,) made an early impression on one of my friendsa palm print. Yow gallivanted his way across the forest of young punk dudes and oldsters trying to get a lift, stepped up to him and slapped him straight in the face. As the guy was telling me the story, he raised his eyebrows, smiled a little, and said, “Hard.” Another friend was set adrift in “the pit,” a term destined for sounding corny these days, but there it is. Distracted in a moment when he was helping suspend Yow mid-air by supporting his tailbone, he got clocked and lost his glasses.

Thing is, last night’s The Jesus Lizard set at Cat’s Cradle was hardly a place where negativity held any sway with people. It was fucking joyous. You could not turn your head without seeing someone grinning like they were gonna soil their pants. People who didn’t know each other pulled each other up from the floor. Yow checked out every inch of the place, hanging from a fan one song, off to check the stability of some wooden staging boards the next. The bandDuane Denison, David Wm. Sims, and Mac McNeillsurged and jabbed like boxers. McNeilly pulled one of those anomalies you only see occasionally, a drum solo as brutal as their set in pace and pummeling heaviness. Denison and Sims blasted on guitar and bass what bordered on the best industrial clatter (certainly The Birthday Party is in there, always).

All this is what makes the combo of their sound and Yow’s ring-leading such a physical thing: They beat everyone up. Metal schmetal. Last night it was hard not to get punch-drunk. Skulking around like he knew no other place but that room, Yow coaxed the lot along, feeding beer to the diehards down front, twitching himself around in inhuman contortions.

There’s this ghastly little demon creature in Alan Moore‘s Swamp Thing comic. He’s a nasty brute, drooling all over the place as he creeps around looking for the one thing that feeds him, human fear. The Monkey King, he’s called. David Yow spits a lot. More than he speaks between songs, and often while in the moment of purging, when his body tenses to a quiver at a song’s heart. Seeing the Jesus Lizard doesn’t mean David Yow tries to scare people; in fact it’s obvious how much he loves laying hands on everybody. Last night he careened and floated on the hands of an ecstatic crowd like a guy trying to fly; he leaped out there–not as a novel show of coolness one lonely time–but nearly a dozen. I’d say he doesn’t seek fear in people’s faces, but how much people are losing their heads in that moment, a bit of mayhem with some menace.

There was an encore, of course. This crowd wanted as much as they could give. It was palpable in the room, this sense of “What’re they gonna do now?”

Not one for banter, at one brief point, Yow looked up to sheepishly say as much as he’d said all night, besides “Hello Pensacola,” and “I’d like to dedicate this next song to anyone here who has a groin injury,” a line he repeated throughout. “I don’t want to bore you, but doing these shows has allowed us to have a lot of fun, so thank you for,” and he just waved. Fun? Yeah, that’s right.