Date: November 2, 2013
Venue: Black Cat, Washington, DC
2011 was a pretty lackluster year for new music, save for decent albums from Mastodon, Beastie Boys, the Black Keys, and the Black Lips. The latter was a surprise favorite. In years when few new releases catch my ear I tend to catch up on older stuff I missed the first time. That year I got deep into mid-60's psych and garage rock, with the infamous and influential Nuggets box set as a guide.
It was serendipitous that the Black Lips, a band I hadn't really paid much attention to prior, released their sixth album Arabia Mountain that year. Produced in large part by well known 60's sound fetishist Mark Ronson (responsible for Amy Winehouse's biggest Motown soundalikes), the album faithfully recreated the gonzo Animal House aesthetic of vintage Sonics, Kingsmen, and Wailers.
On Arabia Mountain the Atlanta, Georgia, based garage rock foursome showcased irreverent ditties covering a wide range of goofy topics like tripping in art galleries, Spider-Man getting molested, dumpster diving, and eating tainted raw meat. If that wasn't ridiculous enough, they had a reputation for insane live shows involving onstage vomiting, urination, nudity, and worse. I had to check these freaks out for myself, and my chance came this past weekend at the Black Cat.
The Black Lips arrived ready to churn up the packed house of young hipsters, by this point well fueled on Pabst and cheap booze. Kicking off with "Family Tree" from Arabia Mountain, the band fired through a trebly white-noise set of crowd favorites from that album, older tunes like band anthem "Bad Kids" from Good Bad Not Evil, and even a few new jams off their forthcoming record - which apparently features production by The Black Keys' Patrick Carney, guitar and pedal-steel from Mastodon's Bret Hinds, and horns from members of the Daptones.
Though no onstage urination or vomiting occurred, I did at least witness one of the Lips spit up a loogie (or was it chewing gum?) and catch it back in his own mouth, mid-song. Impressive. All in all, despite a surprisingly short set, it was a fun show. The rhapsodic crowd pogoed around, windmilling sweaty t-shirts and pouring cans of cheap brew on each other's heads. As the Black Lips slipped off stage after their closing song "MIA," satisfied fans in boat shoes and Wayfarer sunglasses spilled out into the night in search of the next good party.