Words by Armin Rosen
Photos by Dear Kelly Green and Armin Rosen
If there’s one band that Market Hotel was made for, the Black Lips would surely be them. It’s not that the Lips encourage the sort of raucous behavior that makes MH shows so unpredictable, or that their southern-tinged garage rock sounds like it was written to be played in a ramshackle Bushwick loft. It’s that they walk a deliberate, even self-parodying line between unabashed amateurism on the one hand and obnoxious stardom on the other. They’re sons of bitches who sound like they’ve barely mastered their instruments, a popular band with a swagger that’s distinctively DIY. Unlike the Black Keys, they’ll play your basement and destroy it in the process. And you’ll love ’em for it.
What also made this seem like the concert booking of destiny–other than the fact that notice of a venue change (from the Ridgewood Temple, which apparently doesn’t have a liquor license) showed up in my inbox less than four hours before doors opened– is the way people approach these Brooklyn spots like Market and Death by Audio with a recklessness usually absent from Manhattan’s sanitized music scene. And why not: the beer is (comparatively) cheap, air circulation is nonexistent, and you’re in a not particularly scenic corner of Bushwick that really only exists for you when you’re at a Market Hotel show, much in the same way that Hoboken (and, for that matter, New Jersey) really only exists for me if I absolutely have to go to a show at Maxwells. The Hotel is a deep, dark corner in a city that’s growing short on deep, dark corners, and the Hotel takes this literally: it’s probably the most dimly-lit musical venue on the whole of the Eastern seaboard.
And while I’m on the topic of cheap beer: The Lips are basically a musical billboard for binge drinking, and the few times I’ve seen them they’ve at least seemed as drunk as anyone in the crowd. Luckily you don’t have to be particularly sober to thrash through a two or three-chord rock song, and you certainly don’t have to be sober to slur thorough lyrics that must have been written in the throes of a fearsome alcohol kick. So the abundance of cheap beer closed the remaining gap between the band and its audience, a gap that is at least physically nonexistent at Market Hotel anyway: both were in the exact same frame of mind. Throw in an indoor heat index of like, a zillion degrees, and you’ve got yourself a drunken mini-riot in the world’s biggest sauna/concert venue with a band that could drink its collective weight in Colt .45, and probably does so on a more or less consistent basis.
Best Thrusday night EVER, right? Well, not so much. While this at least looked like the biggest live musical event to hit New York since the Concert for Bangladesh, the reality matched the hype a little bit too much. I guess what I’m saying is that getting shoved around to repetitive, driving guitar rock in crematory-like conditions turns out not to be that much fun, and that a rock n’ alcohol-fueled adrenaline rush–or rather, 200 or so simultaneous rock n’alcohol-fueled adrenaline rushes–can produce some pretty terrifying consequences.
I don”t really remember what the Lips played, and hopefully these pictures will give you a sense of why that is. Well I guess the real reason why is that Market Hotel has only one window, which concert-goers feel an inane need to crowd around now that New York is in full-on summer Hell mode. But ancillary reasons include the Hotel’s awkward wedge-shaped performance space, which squeezes the crowd tighter and tighter the closer it gets to the stage. Anthropological observation of the night: “moshing,” as it is called, is often just the result of too many people trying to get to the same and in this case increasingly-small place at the same time, all the while feeling obligated to acknowledge whatever the hell is going on in front of them. So the crowd mindlessly undulated back and forth, in imperfect rhythm to “O Katrina,” “Bad Kids,” and other songs that, owing to beer, ass-sweat, and extreme physical discomfort owing to both beer and ass-sweat, I’m only half-certain the Lips actually played. What I was able to visually record is the suggestion that the Black Lips played Market Hotel. So you see limbs bursting every which way, and people wearing dumb grins that communicate a punch(and beer)-drunk bemusement at being in waaay over their heads. And you can kinda pick out members of the band, if you give take a “Where’s Waldo”-like approach.
Second anthropological observation of the night: “mosh” pits tend to push everyone in a foreword direction, which usually necessitates people in the front pushing the people behind them out of their way. Now Black Lips fans are a little too mellow to start a real moshpit God bless ’em, but apparently not so mellow that they won’t scream at the people unfortunate enough to get pushed onstage. “Off the stage!” the crowed chanted as a fortunately-sober Todd Patrick appealed for calm; meanwhile, I started to worry if I’d make it out of Bushwick alive if the Lips ever got around to playing “Veni, Vidi, Vici” (and by the way, spare me any “if you can’t stand the heat…”-type comments. Yes, some concerts should be really intense, and yes, some band probably played some show at some point that made Thursday night look like a quiet night of downloading porn. I, for one, have limits.).
Which they didn’t, because someone had the incredible foresight to stop this thing before shit really got out of hand–seeing that my notebook was totally soaked in arm sweat, this struck me as a prudent idea. Now, I’m sure nobody would have y’know, passed out in the middle of “How Do You Tell a Child That Someone Has Died.” But at least we never got to find out.
[Photo by Armin Rosen]
Of the opening acts, the best was probably The So So Glos, a super-loud punk outfit that doesn’t let its high level of musical sophistication get in the way of the good time. This brought to mind last week’s Wire concert at South Street Seaport, although it sounds like they’ve been listening to plenty of MC5 as well. They get points for being one of those bands that are able to effectively treat guitar feedback as an extra instrument. A group to watch, I’d say.
[A girl, a cat, and Titus Andronicus. Photo by Armin Rosen.]
The lead singer of Titus Andronicus shares a moment with a young fan pre-show. Titus has a jangling, bluesy sound that’s a little tighter than the Lips’ jangling, bluesy sound, although they dabble in keyboard rock that sounds like the Hold Steady on the worst bender of its life. At center: the world’s most adorable kitten.
[Photo by Armin Rosen]
And last: the lead singer of TA playing the tambourine with his head. Note that he looks like he’s about ready to faint. I don’t blame him.