After catching Black Lips, we have a sneaking suspicion of where the term ‘Hotlanta’ comes from.
At the Great American Music Hall in San Francisco, the stage is dark and empty, and has been long enough that the audience, freshly energized by an amazing set from Pierced Arrows (ex-members of Dead Moon) is starting to fidget with urgency. Finally someone walks on stage and begins to set up the drums with a meticulous knowledge. His thoroughness is kind of amazing for a drum tech; and suddenly it makes perfect sense: this is not a drum tech at all but rather Black Lips actual drummer, Joe Bradley.
The rest of the band gradually gathers on the stage, each setting up his equipment unassisted. Even more hands-on, the band consults with the house sound guy throughout the show, tweaking different elements for each song. For a band who has sold out this 600 capacity venue, they keep a very small and tight (and smart) operation.
As the audience begins to recognize the gold-toothed, mustachioed and over-sized-hat-sporting band members, a focused silence settles in, punctuated by a few hoots and hollers from adoring fans. Under stripped down stage lighting, Black Lips rip into their first song and the crowd is immediately a dancing frenzy. The blues-rock-psych-pop is so instantly magnetizing, it’s no wonder this band has gone so quickly from minor local stardom in their Georgia homeland to huge recognition as one of Vice Records flagship artists.
Founding member and bassist/vocalist, Jared Swilley tells us that he’s glad to be in San Francisco, “Atlanta in winter is a crazy beast.” Bradley chimes in with an impish grin and a stoner-ish southern accent, “It’s the old west of the deep south.” Guitarists Ian Saint Pé and Cole Alexander smile charmingly, Saint Pé’s grin glaring with gold fronts on both sets of his teeth. Suddenly the lights go out and the room illuminates with swirling gel lights; the band launches into a kind of eerie psychobilly-ish number. But these innocent hipster boys don’t scare anyone; the crowd just keeps on dancing and having a blast.
Black Lips are known for a lot more craziness and antics in their sets than what they displayed tonight, as can be attested to with a quick search of Wikipedia, Flicker and YouTube. Not that we’re disappointed, though; his show is wall-to-wall, beginning-to-end awesome. We don’t bother getting a set list because every song is great. And we’re thoroughly impressed with Alexander’s ability to spit several feet into the air and catch it again in his own mouth. Yum!
After a three-song encore, Swilley swiftly exits to make a prior commitment, which has him due at a DJ session at SF’s Beauty Bar within 10 minutes of the show’s close, and Bradley throws his drumsticks at the floor, seemingly in anger at the crowd that has thrown copious amounts of water onto the band and its equipment as they finished that last song. But Saint Pé maintains the stage, spending an absurd amount of time shaking hands with the crowd; campy to the point of self-congratulatory, but cute nonetheless. These guys can get away with anything.
Black Lips bring their magnetic, energetic show to Denver’s Bluebird Theater Saturday, February 16, and Kaffeine Buzz implores you: DON’T SLEEP!