The Black Lips: Lollapalooza

By • Aug 6th, 2008 • Category: Concert Reviews

Atlanta’s Black Lips don’t play rock ‘n’ roll. They play rock ‘n’ tumble. Or rock ‘n’ flail. Or rock ‘n’ repulse. The bluesy foursome has built its reputation as much on the lineage of Nuggets and Mersey punk as it has on its disgusting stage antics.

So when the quartet sauntered onto Lollapalooza’s Bud Light stage, the large festival crowd wanted to know one thing: “Are these guys full of shit?” The rumors of rock star debauchery and tendencies for mid-set vomit, urine, and other bodily fluids are one thing in a dark club in the middle of the night. But not just after noon on a weekday. Not outside. Not in almost 90-degree weather.

And that’s exactly the scenario the band faced during the festival’s first real “destination” set, a Friday gig that easily featured the day’s biggest name up through that point.

It took less than a song for the thousands of skeptics to get their answer: “No.” The Black Lips really are like that. Yet, had vocalist Cole Alexander actually said so out loud, it more than likely would have been an inaudible slur. Before the band had finished opener “I Saw a Ghost (Lean)”, guitarist Ian Saint Pé had spit directly into one of the festival’s videographer’s lenses and knocked over his microphone enough times to need a replacement. Not to be outdone, Alexander topped off at least one beer and convulsed about the stage with enough force to shake loose his feather hairpiece.

Dressed like the gang of ruffians in Ernest Goes to Camp, the Georgians crammed 16 of their garage rock songs into the hour-long performance. Although tunes such as “Oh, Katrina” and “Bad Kids” were identifiable, the band all but exhausted its recent catalog: each of the Black Lips’ two 2007 albums clock in at about half an hour.

Like a modern-day 13th Floor Elevators, the group parlayed trippy microphone effects into banter about finding God through psychedelic drugs. At times the members rolled around on the stage as if they were in the middle of hallucinogenic seizures; at others they sat with legs folded calmly like they were nursing off the night’s hangover. They might have been doing both.

Between Saint Pé smashing a bottle on the stage to play a makeshift slide guitar, and Alexander and bassist Jared Swilley bouncing into one another and knocking their tuning a bit further out of whack, the midday performance was an orchestrated mess. It was sloppy. It was self-defacing but somehow self-serving.

It was the proof that so many wanted. After all, there are plenty of people who can’t tell the difference between real and fake vomit until they step in it for themselves – even in the middle of the afternoon.

Soundcheck Magazine, August 2008

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