Dancing, crowd surfing, moshing, and saliva — the Black Lips ripped the crowd a new one at Great American Music Hall on Saturday night.
I took a look at the lineup for the band’s Saturday show (Black Lips, Cerebral Ballzy, and Personal & the Pizzas), the second of a two-night stand in SF, and headed out to witness what I assumed would yet another buzz band playing mediocre music on out of tune guitars.
Black Lips are buzzy, and they are on the ultimate of buzzed-out labels, Vice Records. If inclined to do a little research, their reputation precedes them with tales of their antics both on-stage and off — urination into one-another’s body cavities, vomiting mid-set, private parts becoming not so private, human skulls being used as reverb chambers to record with, their desire to sacrifice a small child on stage. All of these things scream overindulgence and excessiveness to the point of being trite.
Their guitars were, in fact, out of tune, and initially I was not entirely taken with their music. What I was immediately taken by was the reaction of the crowd to the four-piece as soon as they walked on stage, hands in the air, wholly owning the room before the first note was plucked. I watched in wonder as the 200 or so people on the floor all started dancing in unison as soon as Black Lips began playing. I’m talking gleeful, unabashed, hands in the air dancing that I haven’t seen in such large numbers in a long looooong time.
I cringed when guitar player Cole Alexander spit an impressive phlegm wad into the air only to let it splatter upon his up-turned face. However, I found myself being drawn to the childlike charm of the pogoing foursome from Atlanta, and their contagious exuberance makes up for their naïve statements and past actions, at least in my mind.
When I’m safe in the balcony watching a massive pit swirl below me, hands waving in the air, faces frozen in gleeful grins, mouths screaming the lyrics and loving thy neighbor as never before, I can forgive a little dissonance. I can overlook the fact that Black Lips sound like a sloppy early Rolling Stones, mixed with The Clash and a drunken bar band on LSD in a small southern town.