What can be said about this show that does not have to do with two infamous words: Free Beer!
It was one of the rare times it was smart to show up when the doors opened: the Magic Stick offered two hours of free beer courtesy of Harley-Davidson, which resulted in plenty of hopped up attendees raring for loud noises.
Hometown favorites Lee Marvin Computer Arm have yet to disappoint. They’re one of those Detroit, cock-rocking Midwest bands I always try to catch live. Let’s just say it’s tough to live up to breaking three instruments in a span of 15-minutes. LMCA opened shaky and not quite settled in, but once comfortable, the energy was exhausting. Being under the weather worked against me and I couldn’t survive the dance pit.
The Selmanaires, friends and tour mates of the Black Lips, played the middle set. The band opened somewhat slow, which allowed the audience down time, but ultimately hurt its set. LMCA’s rocker onslaught opened the night at a blistering pace, only to be briefly suspended in mellow minimalist tunes. Though The Selmanaires did not ruin the evening’s high life, mid set it proved its range with a DFA-style dance number that had all the right builds and groove-inducing percussion work to earn the crowds favor. From there the band played a frenzied garage rock song, “Just to Get Your Love,” and another dance number called “Selmanaire Rock” that rode a funky bass and spiraling guitar licks.
I had read the lore of the Black Lips, the kissing, the Tijuana, the spitting, the destruction and the petty lack of skill. Despite a worry that those days were behind the Lips, the band proved to Detroit that those storied nights could be only the beginning. Mid-set, guitarist Cole Alexander began shouting “We want to play Devil’s Night” claiming the Lips could show Detroit how to party on the night before Halloween. Black Lips opened with several cuts from its latest record Good Bad, Not Evil, including fan favorites (before the albums official release) “O Katrina” and “Bad Kids.” Who doesn’t love a song about spray painting a penis on the wall?
Detroit held its rowdiness for the entire set; it was a feeding frenzy for the Lips. Drummer Joe Bradley looked like the Muppet’s Animal at the drum kit as he bounced around to his beats, hair flopping in rhythm. Guitarist Ian St. Pe even snuck an open mouth (complete with golden grill) kiss to Alexander. When Alexander wasn’t getting friendly band kisses, he was spitting over his head and catching it, without missing a lick.
I’ve decided I am a full Lips supporter. It began with a fondness for recordings so shitty and grating they scrape the ear drums. But this band is meant to be seen, not heard. The Lips possess that “rock or die” attitude; if they weren’t touring they’d be pumping your gas. Black Lips are dire straits personified, either win over every crowd or go home with your tail between your legs.
These days, rock music is so controlled, by the security at venues or bands shying from stage antics and reckless abandon. We have our few darlings, our Les Savy Favs and Black Lips: threatening, unpredictable and down right incredible performers. Music needs more bands willing to let freak flags fly and burn in one committed breath. For some time, concerts have lulled me into their predictable scenarios of zombie attendees and textbook performances. It’s time more bands stop painting by numbers and smear us up in an unruly mess.