Black Lips

<img src="" alt=" " />Oh garage-rock!  Oh Black Lips! ...

Black Lips + fans

Wild, out-of-control alt-crowds used to be reserved only for punk rock shows, but lately this decade’s garage-rock-revival has been spawning these kinds of audiences as well – maybe for no band more so than Atlanta’s Black Lips.  While most garage-rock acts are only recently formed (ironic, considering their anything-but-recent sound), Black Lips have been around since 2000 (even have that most iconic of band hallmarks, the deceased member, late guitarist Ben Eberbaugh).  The band is known for wild stage antics like vomiting, urination, nudity, live animals and more, but as they’ve recently gotten bigger, they’ve toned it down somewhat, relying more on the crowd for the wildness, like they did at Williamsburg Waterfront in Brooklyn, NY on July 26th – but still nearly knocked the place down…


A big reason for Black Lips’ pulling back on their own on-stage antics is because they’ve been playing bigger stages, and that means stricter security and demands from promoters/venues.  For the past three summers in New York, they’ve played a free, outdoor stage, all-ages and at least somewhat state-supported, and that has also caused them to pull the throttle back a bit.  Relatively speaking – in 2007 at Siren Music Festival (QRO Siren 2007 recap), they brought out a live chicken (QRO photos), and last year, at a McCarren Park Pool Party (QRO venue review), there was a Chihuahua (QRO photos).  Returning to the (now-relocated) Pool Parties in 2009, Black Lips brought no animals on stage – but the crowd was animalistic enough.  Right from the get-go, fans were crowd-surfing and pushing against the now-seeming-flimsy barrier.  Security tried to hold the line, but early on the middle and house-right two-thirds of the photo pit basically collapsed, pinning security against the stage floor speakers in the middle, and trapping a few photographers (including Sam Horine, who took those 2007 Black Lips photos for QRO).  That’s why almost all of the photos are from the house-left side…

Black Lips

jump!Black Lips did pull out a few stunts.  At one point, singer/bassist Jared Swilley took either a mandolin or a ukulele (that appeared from who-knows-where) and smashed it to bits, then threw what was left of the frame deep into the crowd.  Guitarist Ian Saint Pé (sportin’ a fine-looking grill) joked that he was pissed he couldn’t drink beer on stage (state park rules limit beer to designated area, a major complaint all have with Black Lips smash!Williamsburg Waterfront – QRO venue review), and “I don’t drink water”, then tossed his bottle of H2O into the crowd.  But most notable was singer/guitarist Cole Alexander, who more than once stepped onto the stage floor speakers to play right to the crowd (and a couple of times up onto the stage’s speakers, and once onto drummer Joe Bradley’s bass drum).  He even did a bit of a crowd-surf, while playing (though that did limit how far he could ride the wave).

the surfers

get off of there!Lots of fans were surfing, and, at first, security tried to push them back when they reached the front, despite that the natural flow of the crowd surf is forward.  Eventually, the fan would either fall into the crowd, or be pulled into the pit by security, then hustled off.  But as they grew more & more concerned with just holding the line, security was reduced to having to just tell the fan to leave the pit, which they actually seemed to always do, though there were still some in the crowd who managed to make it onto the stage to stage-dive, especially near the end of the set.  Security had even bigger worries than that – at one point, when Alexander was rockin’ right up in the crowd’s face, and the crowd were reaching for him, he seemed to get into a fight with security, likely because one of the men in green shirts pushed or grabbed him, trying to separate things.

watch where you put your hands!

What songs did Black Lips play?  Well, they did “Short Fuse”, from their latest, 200 Million Thousand (QRO review), but the darker, Yardbirds-esque piece played like all the rest of their garage-rock did, live.  When Saint-Pé broke a string, the band bumped up hit single “O Katrina!”, thanks to its opening bass line – possibly setting the crowd a little more on fire than even Black Lips intended.  But you don’t go to Black Lips for their relatively run-of-the-mill songs; you go for the show, and it was a show.  One couldn’t help but feel they screwed headliner …And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead (QRO live review), who couldn’t hope to live up to that, but rain kicked in just as the Lips were ending.  That didn’t really cool off the crowd, but the skies then brought thunder, smacking down on the East River, and (again, in accordance with state park rules), the Pool Party had to shut down, right as Trail of Dead were about to start.  This Big Apple summer has already seen a number of out-of-control, free, all-ages, outdoor shows – Matt & Kim at Hudson River Park (QRO review), Spank Rock at Siren Music Festival (QRO recap), even Fucked Up at Williamsburg Waterfront two weeks earlier (QRO photos – again, not headlining, but this time the skies stayed clear and Mission of Burma blew ‘em out of the water – QRO review).  There was no way Black Lips weren’t going to get in on that.

Black Lips

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