Black Lips | 01.21 | San Francisco

By: Justin Gillett

Black Lips :: 01.21.10 :: Great American Music Hall :: San Francisco, CA

Black Lips :: 02.08.08 by Josh Miller
Over the past ten years, Atlanta's Black Lips have earned a reputation for being one of the crudest live acts on the touring circuit. The band's affinity for discharging bodily fluids while onstage, as well as playing nude and performing sexual acts on one another, has led some to consider the band distasteful at best and a gimmick at worst. While this behavior has kept the four-piece garage rock outfit from mainstream appeal, it has attracted a different audience; a sort of anti-establishment, anarchistic mass that's drawn to artists who do what they want regardless of any possible consequences and who prove this with their actions as much as their music.

During Black Lips' recent layover in San Francisco at the Great American Music Hall, the band was surprisingly tame compared to the depravity of its old self. The group still put on a high energy live show, to the admiration of the sold out crowd, but the band seems to have matured a bit and grown out of its "shock rock" ways. Whether this is a calculated move or something that just kinda happened naturally, it was clear that Black Lips are entering a new chapter and are intent on evolving as a band. This isn't to say that they've totally changed ethos, but the group has toned down its antics a bit. However, the band still has an unpredictable stage presence and its S.F. stop proved that the rabblerousing nature of Black Lips is still somewhat intact.

At first sight of the band coming onstage, people in the audience became very agro – setting the tone for how the audience would act for the duration of the show. As Black Lips played it was clear with the liberal amount of mic reverb that the band doesn't really care about crispness of sound or clarity of vocals. It almost sounded like they were playing through speakers that were intentionally set up to sound like they were blown out. While bassist Jared Swilley sang the majority of lead vocals, the entire band had mics and sang spastically. The guys are not accomplished singers, and the vocals sounded extremely rough, but the approach helped add to the overall renegade quality they exude.

Black Lips :: 02.08.08 by Josh Miller
As the members onstage jumped and flailed about, the rambunctious crowd matched their actions in intensity. For a bunch of pretentious looking fans, everyone really got excited by the music, with people crowd surfing, getting thrown onstage and then leaping back into the crowd to rage some more.

Throughout the show it was interesting to look at the interplay between guitarists Cole Alexander and Ian Saint Pé. As both guys played it was clear that neither of them were that skilled on their instrument. They both played well, in the confines of the music, but both rarely took a solo, and when one did it was slightly droll and uninteresting. The lack of instrumental prowess is excusable though. Black Lips is a band that doesn't need virtuosity to propel itself. By not being tied down to playing fast or particularly adept, the band is surprisingly able to write memorable songs that are easy to listen to.

As the self-proclaimed "flower punks" kept lighting up the room, it became evident that the band has grown since its adolescent years, developing a potent stage show that mixes rock and theater with compelling results. Black Lips' relentless touring schedule is testament to their dedication to music, and even though the band still looks like a bunch of skate rats, they are noteworthy performers who have earned their spot in the musical zeitgeist.

Black Lips tour dates available here.

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[Published on: 1/29/10]

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