Black Lips are infamous for their onstage antics, including vomiting, chickens, nudity, and the incitement of riotous crowds. It’s fair to say they’ve been around the block a few times, having formed in 1999, and know exactly how to work a crowd. On a rainy Wednesday night, the Atlanta five-piece brought Insecure Men and Table Scraps along with them for the ride. With both support acts captivating the crowd – particularly Insecure Men’s Saul Adamczewski, and his satirical lyricism – Black Lips emerged to a heady reception.
Despite not playing their greatest hits, namely ‘Bad Kids’ and ‘Veni Vidi Vici’, Black Lips rallied a frenzy down the front, with bodies flailing and toilet paper flying around the venue from the off. Opening their set with the ramshackle super short track ‘Sea of Blasphemy’, the venue’s sound system seemed unable to cope with the level of garage-rock fuzz, yet soon recovered. Hosting a rough and ready crowd, ‘Family Tree’ and ‘Modern Art’ acted as a fine early display of the band’s impeccable live energy.
Emanating through the shabby brick-walled venue, ‘Funny’ and ‘Dirty Hands’ showcased the band’s American doo-wop twang. In contrast, the shambly sounds of fuzz-driven guitars and propelling drum and bass work demonstrated the band’s different musical strands – see ‘New Direction’, ‘M.I.A.’ and ‘O Katrina!’ for example. In fine demonstration of their musical prowess, new single ‘Can’t Hold On’ was also played, and fit in seamlessly as an archetypal Black Lips hit.
In traditional Black Lips style, they ended their set with garage-and-surf-rock fusion track ‘Raw Meat’, and the crowd straining to whistle along pitch perfect with the band. Triumphantly exiting the stage, the band were summoned back for an encore. Greeted by a crowd jeering for them to play their seminal hit ‘Bad Kids’, naturally, Black Lips did exactly the opposite due to the exit of drummer Joe Bradley, who sang the song. Instead, ‘Bow Down and Die’ – a track from the supergroup The Almighty Defenders – was outed, and was met by a surprisingly strong singalong.
Black Lips have developed a cult-following over their expansive career – their crude and uncut live shows are ones to envy, and they’ve undoubtedly acted as pioneers of the new garage-rock revival of recent years. Their show in Bristol was profane, it was heavy, and it was inspiring; tickets for the rest of the UK tour are available here.
Words by Jasmin Robinson