According to Sister Lip drummer Ariel Monet, the "Lippians" have been playing Long Wongs at the Firehouse every Monday for the past seven months. But even playing the venue once a week and competing with the day before Christmas Eve couldn't stop Sister Lip from packing the room December 23.
With a quality group of openers and closers, including an acoustic set by Kevin Lloyd of Banana Gun and Q of Objective Perspective; The Vintage Squares; Andy Warpigs; and a closing set by the Crown Victoria Vandalism Committee, Sister Lip put on a spectacular, somewhat Christmas-y performance.
Kevin Lloyd and Q opened the night at the newly remodeled dive with an acoustic set; they also play every Tuesday night at Wongs for happy hour.
Q and Lloyd played some enjoyable music themselves to get the night going; their light acoustic set actually tipped the scales, leaving the night with three acoustic acts to two electric. (Though Sister Lip could play with Kenny G and it would still be an electric night.)
Vintage Squares took the stage next, and the psychedelic three-piece exhibited just a wee bit of the '70s on stage. Something about their look (and the bass player's sharp dance moves) exuded an aesthetic that matched the band's vintage name.
The room did not really seem full until Sister Lip took the stage, but once they did, literally every seat in the venue was taken, as was all the standing room with a sightline to the stage. With Sister Lip on stage, the concert took on more of the feel of an intimate holiday party, thanks mostly to the band's comfortable demeanor on what has really sort of become their home stage.
"Sometimes I feel like I'm going to turn into sand, because I get so happy. Like today, during our first song, I felt like just turning into sand because I was just really really happy," said Monet, and it was all rock 'n' roll from then on.
Sister Lip held the stage, and the audience, for more than 45 minutes, and each song was met with raucous applause from the packed holiday house. The long residency has quite obviously been good to the four-piece blues/rock outfit, who since starting the residency has gone on a two-piece acoustic international tour, performed at multiple festival dates, including ALMF and Side Pony Express Fest in Bisbee, and were named the second-best band under the age of 21 in New Times (by me).
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Sister Lip's success is due in large part to their musical abilities, catchy songs, and willingness to play just about any show that comes their way. But another big ingredient has been the quality bookings and networking abilities of their stellar drummer.
Sister Lip's set included "The Sex Song," "Mr. Sticky," "Flat Pillow," and "Pure Honey," among others that night it mind as well have been The Beatles up on stage. All 60 people were dancing and singing along.
One of Sister Lip's most popular songs was a tremendous cover of "Santa Baby." Monet was feeling it so much that she got up on her drum throne and danced during the intro before jumping down to provide the beat.
Self-described "coffee shop cowboy" Andy Warpigs got on stage next, and the only thing clear about his set is that Andy Warpigs is out of his mind. He let his butt-crack hang out while playing and jumped around on stage like he was high on meth. From atop the drum kit, which was played in the beginning of his set by Monet and the end by local rapper Dadadoh, to the floor of the venue, Warpigs marched around, singing in peoples faces and even serenading a girl with a very special Christmas love song.
The next act, folk-punk two-piece C.V.V.C, includes Starks and melodica player Mikey "Critical" Xero; the two founders were joined by Warpigs on percussion and Monet on drums. They opened with a cover of "Adam's Song" by Blink-182, and the improvised drumming by Monet really added the oomph C.V.V.C has been looking for.
Hearing Starks and Xero playing their more pop-punk "Jack," which Starks penned when he was 14, with a real drum backing, and not just the assorted odds and ends Warpigs brings to the table, was refreshing. It really made C.V.V.C's music sound full and encompassing in the venue.
After C.V.V.C's set, Sister Lip and some friends decided they were not done playing yet; Hilgers, Monet, Warpigs, Starks, Dadadoh, and others retook the stage for a jam session. Hilgers sat down on the throne and did her best on drums, while Monet took on bass duties, Warpigs played acoustic guitar, and another played Hilgers electric guitar. Everyone else played percussion or vocals.
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The jam session did not sound great, but that wasn't the point. Monet climbed all over the drum kit, bass in hand, Warpigs yelled obscenities, Starks hated cops, and a merry night before Christmas Eve was had by all.