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Limp Bizkit storms the charts

The rap-metal band headed by Fred Durst is changing the face of popular music

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You don’t know from god-awful noise until you’ve heard a horde of teenage girls screeching in ecstasy at the sight of their favorite band. It’s a piercing, undifferentiated wall of sound, white noise in falsetto, and it’s been blaring nonstop for 10 minutes.

No, it isn’t the Backstreet Boys or Ricky Martin inspiring the racket. The gals (and, it must be admitted, a few guys) assembled on the promenade outside the Jones Beach concert arena in Long Island, N.Y., are going gaga over Limp Bizkit, the scruffy rap-metal quintet whose thrash-and-burn cover of George Michael’s ”Faith” has been an MTV staple for months. The band members are hunkered around a table atop a raised platform, signing T-shirts, hats, and posters. In a few hours, they will deliver a pulverizing set at K-ROCK’s Dysfunctional Family Picnic 3, the radio station’s annual celebration of rock in all its permutations. But right now they’ve got their hands — not to mention their ears — full.

A girl who looks all of 14 jumps onto the dais and is summarily escorted off by security, hyperventilating and near tears. Oblivious, the group — frontman Fred Durst, 28, guitarist Wes Borland, 24, bassist Sam Rivers, 21, drummer John Otto, 22, and turntablist DJ Lethal, 26 — continue scrawling signatures on anything that’s thrust in front of them. And with each stroke of a pen, the caterwauling seems to get shriller (as Lethal will later say, ”It was f—in’ louder than Wes’ guitar”).

Suddenly, Durst leaps onto the table and throws his pen into the crowd, signaling the end of the proceedings. As his band mates beat their retreat, he grins gleefully, raises his arms, and extends the middle finger of each hand.

And a postmodern peace sign backatcha, pal.

That a band from Jacksonville, Fla., which plays raging, testosterone-soaked music that’s the antithesis of Lilith limpidity is managing to attract any kind of female following is a mystery of Brobdingnagian proportions. But, to paraphrase blues legend Willie Dixon, the little girls obviously understand. At Limp Bizkit’s June 22 appearance at a Seattle record store, girls outnumbered boys two to one, according to Kim Monroe, music director at modern-rock station KNDD. ”As a woman, I loved seeing that,” says Monroe. ”These cute little 15-year-old girls who love Limp Bizkit and like to get in the mosh pit and jump around as much as the boys. It feels like a revolution.”

It’s certainly a phenomenon any marketing sharpie worth his or her expense account would welcome. To maximize profit, cherchez la femme, as the saying goes. Durst — who talks as enthusiastically as he raps, and with a few more pounds could pass for a WWF contender — is understandably pleased with the distaff attention: ”Girls buy more records than guys.”

Whatever their gender, plenty of folks are jumping on the Bizkit bandwagon. Significant Other, the band’s just-released sophomore disc, debuted at No. 1, selling a head-spinning 635,000 copies and dislodging fellow Floridians Backstreet Boys from the pop chart’s apex. It’s a quantum leap forward from its predecessor, 1997’s Three Dollar Bill Yall$. They’ve added vivid patches of melody and textured instrumental flourishes to their adrenalized sonic brutality, baiting the proceedings with cameos from Wu-Tang Clan’s Method Man, Korn’s Jonathan Davis, and Stone Temple Pilots’ Scott Weiland. ”This record is to Three Dollar Bill as [Nirvana’s] Nevermind was to Bleach,” says Flip Records prexy Jordan Schur, who signed Bizkit in ’96 and enjoys a joint-venture deal with Interscope for the band’s releases.