On Halloween night of 1998, Shellac and David Yow of Scratch Acid/Jesus Lizard fame indulged their silly side, pretending to be The Sex Pistols for a set of scorching music. The location was Lounge Ax, the legendary venue on 2438 North Lincoln Avenue in Chicago that had been pummeling audiences with awesome music since 1987. (It closed in 2000; you might remember it as the venue in High Fidelity where John Cusack first meets Lisa Bonet.)
The first performers were Ms. Fits, an all-female Misfits cover band. During their set, Shellac’s Steve Albini stood right in the middle of the audience “to loudly support” the openers, who were facing “a tough crowd.” The middler, Sixto, featured members from Seam and Dis—they’re still active, at least judging by their bandcamp page.
When the crew put up three microphones for the final set, a rumor briefly flared up that this was going to be a Big Black reunion. What the audience got was a lot more special than that: Shellac with David Yow as a spot-on Johnny Rotten doing most of the songs off of Never Mind the Bollocks. Bob Weston was Sid Vicious, Todd Trainer was Paul Cook on drums, and Albini was Steve Jones.
An attendee of the show submitted the following account:
David Yow stalked onto the stage, in full 1970’s-era Johnny Rotten attire to the letter. Bleached and spiked hair, psychotically glaring at the audience, the whole nine yards. He’d done his homework on this one. He was followed by the three Shellacs, with Steve Albini doing his best Steve Jones in vinyl pants (!) and a red doo-rag on his head. Bob Weston *was* Sid Vicious, in spiked black hair, mesh shirt (with scratches and scars visible underneath), glassy-eyed, and an impressively bloody IV bandage on his arm. Only Todd Trainer seemed to buck the whole Pistols image. I mean, he could have found one of those big sweaters or something. Paul Cook had style too.
Anyway, they ripped into “Holidays in the Sun”, and that set the tone for the evening. Yow had Rotten’s nasal Brit accent down pat, even in song. He pulled the whole thing off so well, I tell ya. Weston kept coughing up “blood” and running into things. Steve’s guitar sounded kind of sloppy, but I don’t think Jones could have done it any better. Between songs the band taunted the audience in mock cockney accents, Steve asking if there were “any PAA-ties about”. The audience responded by throwing chunks of a dismembered jack-o-lantern at the band.
The setlist was confined to material from Never Mind the Bollocks, including “Bodies”, “Submission”, “Anarchy in the U.K.”, and closing with “God Save the Queen”. Yow seemed to remember the words to them better than he remembers the words to Jesus Lizard songs.
Yow ended the evening by asking, “Ever get the feeling you’ve been cheated?” and the band walked offstage, barely an hour after they started. For a long time, nobody left. The house lights came up and nobody left. Todd Trainer started taking his drum set apart and people booed. It finally registered that that was the evening, that they weren’t going to get anymore, and they weren’t getting any Shellac songs.
As attendee Andy Larson wrote ten years later to the day, “steve albini said something like ‘does anyone know where there’s a party about?’ in a british accent—and i believe only that. walking up lincoln ave. after the show i passed bob weston (sid vicious) and said ‘hey—great show’ and he said “right” in a british accent.”
There’s no video of the show, and scarcely any pictures—at least on the Internet. The b/w shot above is the only one I could find. There is, however, fairly good audio, which you can download here in flac format.
1. Holidays In The Sun
3. Pretty Vacant
6. New York
7. Anarchy In The U.K.
8. God Save The Queen
The poster for the show was done by Illinois gig poster legend Jay Ryan of The Bird Machine. The poster run had a limited run of only 100 pressings, which combined with the specialness of the gig makes this an extremely hard-to-get item.