Black Lips @ Sidewinder in Austin 9/19/15
The line snaked around the block and spilled onto Red River St., crossing the entrance of a music club that, just last week, was called the Red Eyed Fly, but now touts tan equally arbitrary nomenclature as, The Sidewinder. This was a classic Black Lips move. As a band that has been around since 2003 that possess a vast and dedicated following that could easily sell out mid-size venues like Mohawk or Stubbs, yet instead they shirk grandiosity and pretension for a rowdy backyard stage at a small intimate club, a testament to their atypical financial philosophy and dedication to their live show
The fans standing in line sported an eclectic varietof band T-shirts i.e. the Misfits, Ramones, Modest Mouse, The Stooges, METZ, a Wavves shirt (Possibly purchased the night before) and many others. While most of these bands were musically unrelated the Black Lips, there was an overarching theme of anti-establishment, anti-authoritarianism, and anarchic leanings that justified them being worn that night. The ethos of the Black Lips is a relic from the days of early Stooges, G.G, Allin, and other original punk showman. A\The band reflects an age where provocative onstage theatrics and attacking the status quo relentlessly was an integral part of the artist’s message and identity. The Black Lips continued this tradition, carrying the torch through Austin once again, with a near religious live performance.
The opening bands on the bill were pleasant surprises that slipped seamlessly into the same incongruous vein of impetuousness and joie de vive that the Black Lips projected. Sealion, who are from Fort Worth, played an electrifying set of surf-punk, that could be described as an inebriated, and less formal version of the Ventures. The other opener, Baby Baby, who like the Black Lips, hail from Georgia, are a testosteroned power chord-heavy slap in the face. Baby Baby melted faces and got the crowd nice and sweat-heavy before the Black Lips took the stage.
The Black Lips assumed the stage and opened their sermon to the disaffected punker fellowship of Austin with “Sea of Blasphemy”. Some bands might be reluctant to have two live-wire bands like Baby Baby and Sealion open for them, but the Black Lips are comfortable enough with their intensely captivating set, that there is no question who the headliner is after being immersed in the first few songs of the set. Infectious songs like “Modern Art”, “Dirty Hands”, and “O Katrina” get the crowd involved early and the band is reluctant to let go.
The entire set was a raucous pile-driving slew of new and old songs that spanned the entire decade of the band’s existence. While stage antics were not as maniacal as previous shows, granted it’s hard to outdo Val Kilmer destroying amps with chainsaws at Fun Fun Fun Fest, or smashing beer bottles and doing drugs onstage at an ACL after-show, the energy on Saturday still succeeded in shifting tectonic plates.
The show ended with a Jacques Dutronc cover “Hippie, Hippie, Hoorah”, a personal favorite “Boys in the Wood”, “Smiling”, and “Raw Meat” but the true theme song of the Black Lips came with their last song of the night , “Bad Kids” The chorus lyrics are ‘Bad kids ain’t no college grad/kids living out on the skids/ kids like you and me’ and anybody who was at the venue was screaming along with the band as the song and their sermon began to come to a close.
Jared Swilley and Cole Alexander, the two frontmen of the band, are inherently rebellious and seditious human beings and, it’s safe to say that if they hadn’t found music as an outlet, their energy might have been directed into a less socially accepted medium. Both Jared and Cole were kicked out of high school after the 1999 Columbine massacre, as they were regarded as a ‘dangerous subculture’ at their own school, even though they had done absolutely nothing. The alienation and comfort with living beyond the norm of social acceptance gives veracity to their music and lyrics, which speaks to the endless droves of similar-minded individuals who are lucky enough to hear and relate to their music. These pure rock and roll souls like the Black Lips are few and far between these days but they’ve pulled off the practically impossible, staying together for over ten years, which hopefully these ‘Bad Kids’ can pull off for yet another decade.
Originally posted at Glide Magazine