If there is one word to describe the Black Lips, it has to be “weird.” And when I say that, I don’t mean pseudo-hipster, beanie- and flannel-wearing weird. I mean straight-up drooling, wildly gesticulating, out-of-tune-yet-somehow-
When the kings of quirk took the stage at Paradise Rock Club Saturday evening, there was already the expectation that it would be an odd evening. The band is known for its on-stage antics. From vomiting to nudity, nothing is too over-the-top. They take raw, uncensored garage punk to a new level.
They took a step back with their most recent album, Underneath the Rainbow, co-produced by Patrick Carney of the Black Keys. Although it is perhaps a bit more refined and tame than some of their previous work, it still exhibits the band’s fearlessness in breaking the rules that was so prevalent in their previous work.
And it’s not as if their fans are so innocent, either.
At the show Saturday, a mosh pit broke out immediately with the first few notes the band played, along with the throwing of beer receptacles onto the stage — special props to the band members, who all appeared to be expert in dodging flying beer cans. Three songs in, there were already people crowd surfing. The security guards situated at the front of the stage looked extremely pained from the get-go.
With a couple of older tracks, “Family Tree” and “Modern Art,” the band appeared even more comfortable with their obscurity. They played with a secure sense of self, unafraid to make suggestive gestures, dance and yell into the microphone with very little regard for intonation.
But the good thing about the Black Lips is that lack of intonation totally works. They see no need for sophistication, for any sort of rule following. Instead, the only important thing is making crude punk rock that gets an entire room dancing.
The band rattled off a slew of quick and dirty songs from their new album — “Drive-By Buddy,” followed by “Boys in the Wood” and “Smiling.” With metallic guitars and a Southern twang, “Boys in the Wood” shone brightly. “Smiling” featured, again, extreme mastery of out-of-tune yet oh-so-perfect harmonies.
That being said, it was nearly impossible to pay attention to the performances at all.
Even physically safe and secure on the balcony, it was difficult to focus on the music purely due to the rapid movements of the crowd. It was a dizzying experience, between the projected video of some sort of growing bacteria under a microscope and the sweaty shoving occurring on the floor. A crew member for the band threw toilet paper rolls into the audience, prompting even more sweaty, disgusting confusion.
The first part of the set closed with the band’s biggest hit, “Bad Kids.” As if everyone in the room could relate, the audience erupted into the largest mosh pit of the evening. Drummer Joe Bradley took proper bows before leaving the stage — pretty much the only proper thing of the night, really.
As an encore, the band played “O Katrina!” from the 2007 album Good Bad Not Evil. Guitarist Cole Alexander rolled up into a somersault, playing insane chords while essentially standing on his head.
The evening ended with a rendition of “Bow Down and Die” by the Almighty Defenders, a supergroup consisting of members of Black Lips and The King Khan & BBQ Show. It was a swinging back-and-forth, joyous conclusion to the set. One surfer lost his pants during his trip over the rippling crowd in a fitting end to an evening that had completely broken all the rules and run free.