Current Issue #488

Fringe Review:
Lydia Lunch Retrovirus

New York’s valiantly underground Lydia Lunch has always prided herself as being pretty damn scary, and she certainly hasn’t mellowed with age.

However, she also hadn’t got any more user-friendly though, and while the RCC crowd who gathered to watch her were mostly hardcore Lunchers, she didn’t make it an easy experience for any of us, as she frequently refused to mention the names of most of her songs, typically shrieked at the top of her lungs and even restarted at least one offering after initially messing it up.

And yes, some of her mightiest devotees would say that this is all part of her tried-and-true, confrontational rawwk-annd-rohwl aesthetic, and yet it did make it tough to work out what we’re supposed to think and feel about the whole Retrovirus experience.

After a support act – local group Wing Defence – whose set was marked by a shouted rendition of Spiderbait’s Calypso, a half-hour or so passed before Lydia and her three-man backing-band hit the stage and launched into a series of numbers from her Retrovirus album (“It’s because it’s a retrospective!”, she briefly explained), and more. Beginning with a standard rocker, a raspy-voiced Lydia then went through a selection of ditties that might have been from her most recent album, or flashbacks from her previous work (like her onetime outfit Teenage Jesus And The Jerks), or a couple of cover versions, but it was tough to tell which was which, or even when one stopped and the next started.

Again, this is hardly unusual when we’re dealing with this sort of in-your-face, F-you-type material, and it must be pointed out that the Retrovirus band were in good, nasty form, with lots of crunchy, twanging guitar work from Tim Dahl and Weasel Walter, and fierce drumming from Sonic Youth’s Bob Bert, who looked a bit like a hairy David Cronenberg and evidently knows Lydia from those old ‘no wave’ days and even all that disturbing ‘Deathtripping’ stuff.

Wrapping the proceedings up loudly and abrasively, Lydia then came out for a round of autographs and photos with a small army of fans, all of whom were obviously besotted with their idol. Because, after all, how many times can you truthfully say that you met mother-freaking Lydia Lunch?

Lydia Lunch Retrovirus performed at Level 5, RCC, on Thursday 27 February

DM Bradley

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