Monday, March 9, 2009

Concert Review: Black Lips (Middle East)

Mean Creek, Gentleman Jesse and His Men, Black Lips
Venue: Middle East Downstairs
Date: March 7, 2009

Act One - Mean Creek

I really liked them. I dug the hip attitude and appearance meshed with a somewhat sociopolitical commentary on our frail society..... or something like that. I think they had a great sound; the heaviness was just about right for what they were doing. They were fairly energetic and it definitely showed in their performance. And of course there was the cute female guitarist.

Glen: I second Chris in that Aurore Ounjian, the vocalist/guitarist/harmonica player, is very cute. Mean Creek played heavy power pop that was catchy and was almost a throw-back to '80s and '90s alternative rock/shoegaze. "Not to Dream" particularly stuck out as a great song with a hopeful message. Chris Keene, vocalist/guitarist, and Aurore called for America to dream about a society where money is burnt and freedom is free. Mean Creek reminded me of Faces on Film, another passionate local folksy band. They were very good and it will be interesting to see how they emerge in the coming months.

Act Two - Gentleman Jesse and His Men

Gentleman were okay. The volume was a bit unnecessarily high. Some bands can have the volume that loud, like the Black Lips, but for them it just didn't sound right, in my opinion. Just noise that hurt my ears, not to sound like an old bitch. Overall, they were pretty good and I could see 70s rock elements underneath the wall of noise.

Glen: Heavy stuff. My hearing was shot about 30 seconds into their 10 song set. These Atlanta natives combined elements of punk, pop, and lo-fi with sweet guitar solos and choruses. They kind of remind me of a heavier Click Five. I can't see why they aren't bigger. I'm usually not a huge fan of their strand of garage rock, but it's irresistably fetching. Check out "All I Need Tonight Is You."

Act Three - BLACK LIPS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The Black Lips put on the best show I've ever seen. Very extraordinary, wild, and unpredictable. Of course, they garnered the most audience response and rightfully so. As soon as they stormed into "Sea of Blasphemy," the crowd went into a frenzy, never remaining still or apart till the end. They played a fairly diverse set with songs from 4 of their 5 studio albums. In my opinion, the best performances were "Dirty Hands" (by far, the whole crowd was most united for this number, rocking back and forth and singing the chorus, def. a highlight of not just this show, but all shows in my somewhat brief concert going career), "Buried Alive," "Fairy Stories," "Bad Kids," "Starting Over," you know what they were all amazing.... I tried avoiding that, but I couldn't. The band was more energetic and enthusiastic then most other bands I've seen, specifically singer/guitarist Jared Swilley, who often hopped into the crowd and shredded on his guitar. Excellent use of feedback, I must say. He was just a pro in stage antics. Overall, my favorite show by miles. I can't wait to seem them again, whenever that is.

Obsessed with the Black Lips for well over two months, I was, for lack of a better word, pumped to see them. Chatting it up with guitarist Cole Alexander before the show was quite a treat. Cole talked to us about what kind of venues the Black Lips are capable of playing in, their lack of ability to play certain songs, and finally their snorting coke and partying with Radiohead producer Nigel Godrich in England. When Alexander and his crew took the stage, the crowd erupted in shouts of "ooooooooohhhhhhhhhhhh" -- similar to the Mexican crowd on the opening track off their spectacular live album Los Valientes Del Mundo Nuevo. Then, in a blink of an eye, Jared Swilley picked up his guitar, and so did Cole and Ian St. Pe. Joe Bradley readied himself behind the drumset and the group opened with "Sea of Blasphemy." The crowd erupted in a moshpit that involved lots of contact and screaming. The contact and the screaming never relented. Between songs, Jared kept remarking how he couldn't hear the audience for shit (they were screaming out requests). Also between songs involved the tossing of multiple beers. Swilley dropped a pass and joked, "I didn't play football in high school." St. Pe, who a little later caught a beer pass, said "I played football in high school." St. Pe was playing guitar in front of me the whole time. He was clearly inebriated but was still able to strum amazingly. He handed me one of the beers he caught and gave me a high five. Good man. The band was absolutely full of energy and lived up to their "one of rock's best live acts" reputation. There was no mooning, making out, or pissing on the audience -- and there didn't need to be...crowd surfing and spitting sufficed. The Black Lips played a hodge podge of great tracks ranging from oldies "Bad Kids," "Buried Alive," "Dirty Hands," "Cold Hands," a 10 minute epic of "Hippie Hippie Hoorah," "Not a Problem," "Stranger," "Katrina," to songs off their 2009 release 200 Million Thousand like "Drugs," "Short Fuse," "Starting Over," and "Take My Heart." The last song came, at least for me, unexpectedly. I was having the most fun I've ever had and thus began "Juvenile." Jared let the front row play with his guitar a little before full out diving into us. He was hanging onto the condensation-dripping wall while being pushed around. Beers were being spilled everywhere and everyone was going absolutely nuts. The security guards were getting so pissed that they cut the plug to the mics and started dismantling the band's equipment. The crowds' calls, "Encore! Encore!" were repudiated as the lights turned on and the background music played. I would have loved one more, but I can't complain. If they were going to do an encore...the security were just assholes. It took almost 2 days for my inner-ear buzzing to stop, but it was well worth it and I'd relive the concert again in a heartbeat. Black Lips, if you read this...Boston loves you! Come back this summer...please!

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