Black Lips at the Rhythm Room, 6/22/11

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Black Lips with Cerebral Ballzy

Rhythm Room

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Damn you, dyslexia, when I read the bill for last night's show at Rhythm Room, I thought Black Lips were playing a benefit gig for cerebral palsy. Not the case.

Cerebral Ballzy, however, is actually the name of a Brooklyn-based punk ensemble that's currently supporting Black Lips on the West Coast leg of their tour, not a debilitating condition that affects the brain and nervous system. But the band's high-intensity, fuck-your-face thrasher punk may cause severe bruising, and/or bloody noses, ears, and lips.

At least three dudes from last night's show, and maybe one tough-as-nails chick, are reading this recap while holding an icepack to their respective cheeks. As is the case with most punk bands, Cerebral Ballzy induced a mosh pit. In fact, they encouraged it.

"I hope y'all didn't pay $15 to just stand there," yelled guitarist Jason Banny. Or was it the other guitarist? I'm not really sure. Aside from Money Mel on bass, and lead singer Honor Titus, matching names to faces has proven to be quite difficult. Identify gnarly punk music? Now that's something I'm much more comfortable doing, and these guys were radical.

In typical skate-punk fashion, the majority of their songs clock in at just over two-minutes long. The music's about skateboarding, pizza, and beer--the group's biggest vices--and has a hypnotizing affect on the crowd.

Near the end of Cerebral Ballzy's set, a metal barricade dividing Rhythm Room in two--over 21 on one side, under 21 opposite the adults--was delivered onto the stage by a crowd punk. Subsequently, the two sides became one, a family of punk rockers young and old alike. It was like watching the Berlin Wall come down, I think--I was three when that happened. Thanks, Mr. Reagan.

After Cerebral Ballzy thanked the crowd, the bulk of the room dispersed onto the side patio for a smoke break, or the back bar for PBRs. By 9:40, though, everyone's attention was front and center (or off center, depending on how many PBRs people had).

At 9:45, Cole, Jared, Ian, and Joe of Black Lips walked on stage, took a few swigs of beer, and jumped into "Sea of Blasphemy," the first track on Black Lips' 2005 Let it Bloom record. Folks in the first few "rows" were subject to an indie music splash zone, the perfect spot for a regurgitated shower of Coors Light, courtesy of garage rock's favorite Atlanta quartet.

Over the past year or so, music critics around the interwebs have argued that Black Lips' latest album, Arabia Mountain, reflects a more mature, polished garage rock band. They've said the same about their live show, too.

Well, nothing about Black Lips is polished, thank God. They're rock-and-fucking-rollers, and their live set is incredibly gritty, as it should be. And if by "mature" critics mean influenced by the greats--Buddy Holly, Hank Williams, Jerry Lee Lewis, to name a few--they'd be right.

What happens when Cole Alexander pops a string on his guitar? His brilliantly talented musician bros break into an impromptu garage surf rock jam session. It happened last night between "Dirty Hands" and "O Katrina."

"That was improvisation," said Ian Saint Pé before taking a swig of Coors Light.

The crowd was full of improvisational moments too. Crowd surfers risked life and limb in a game of chicken versus the ceiling fan. I had a bet going to see how many songs it would take for a Black Lips fanboy to either (a) decapitate himself, or (b) rip Rhythm Room's cooling system off the ceiling. Sadly, neither happened.

However, my gambling debt is the crowd's gain. The show went on sans incident, though not without a fair amount of close calls.

At one point during the band's set, 13 percent of the audience was on stage. Two girls that looked much too young to witness drunken debauchery thought it'd be a good idea to show the boys in Black Lips--and everyone at Rhythm Room--their pierced belly buttons and their bras. And when Ian and Cole decide to swap spit via a homoerotic kiss, the girls followed suit with a side-stage mini make out.

Last night's set felt like a good ol' fashioned house show for me, minus the faint odor of Florida cannabis lingering over the living room. Easily, it's one of the top five shows I've seen this decade, and by far the greatest Black Lips set I can remember.

And kudos, Rhythm Room, for letting music fans rage, and fuck shit up in the spirit of indie rock and roll. Sorry about the carpet, dudes.

Critic's Notebook

The Crowd: Skate punks, garage rockers, alt tweens, and a few folks over the age of 35 sprinkled with mustaches, nose rings, tattooed titties, and a bustier.

Overheard: "She's underage, bro."

Random: Black Lips' Ian Saint Pé and I discussed southern hospitality, Buddy Holly, and Cadillacs before he took the stage. I told him to rage the fuck out.

Black Lips' Set List:
"Sea of Blasphemy"
"Family Tree"
"Not a Problem"
Impromptu garage surf rock jam session
"O Katrina!"
"Make it"
"Hippie Hippie Hurrah" (Jacques Dutronc Cover)
"Modern Art"
"Ain't No Deal"
"New Direction"
"Lock and Key"
"Go Out and Get It"
"Buried Alive"
"Dumpster Dive"
"Fairy Stories"
"Bad Kids"
"I Saw a Ghost (Lean)"
"Big Black Baby Jesus of Today"

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