words & photos by Keith Marlowe
The Black Lips are a tough band. The first time I shot them was in 2004, and they're in as good, if not better, shape now then they were then. They've toured hard, constantly, for over seven years, playing every conceivable venue from derelict house parties to huge festivals. It takes strength, mental and physical, to hold up for that long on the road, many bands can't take it and fragment under the pressure. The Lips play shows that turn into near-riots, survive being crushed by the crowd, go out and party all night, and wake up and do it the next day. The boat show on Monday was no exception. Both the opening bands also seemed to know what was in store, and really laid it all on the line.
Brooklyn darlings the K-Holes opened the show before we were barely out of the dock, and gave the crowd a taste of the insanity that was to follow. I can't say enough nice things about them. Check them out for yourself. They raged, got paid, thought they were MC Hammer rich, and their singer ate all the profits.
Natural Child are from Nashville, Tennessee. They have a loose sound, are really fun and a good fit with the Black Lips. I talked to Seth (singer/guitar) to find out a bit more about them. "We started 15 months ago. Wes and Zack (other two dudes in the band) had eaten a bunch of pot brownies. They kept calling me, all day, telling me I had to be in a band with them. I finally told them I'd do it if they would practice five days a week and tour a lot, they said cool, and here we are." They're in the middle of a two week east coast tour right now and have a new 7" out called "Bang My Head."
The crowd was getting thick even before the Lips started playing. When their set began, there was about a five foot gap between the monitors and drums, where Ian, Cole and Jared were standing. By the end of the second song they had been pushed back into the drums. The bass amp Jared was borrowing had a beveled back and kept tipping over. I jumped behind it and jammed my foot into the space so he could keep playing and helped Joe reset the drums when he needed it. You know it's a good party when the drummer gets swarmed.
People in the front had both arms stretched up, clutching the upper deck in an attempt to keep from getting shoved into the band. As the show went on, the wall of people with their arms up got thicker and thicker. A couple people jumped from the upper lever, and things really got crazy. There was no way to hold out forever, and bodies began crashing over the band like ocean waves. After slamming into them, they tried to brace themselves against the amps and drums as the crowd kept pushing in. Jared was pushed farther and farther backward, until the only way he could keep singing was to turn the mic, face the drums and turn his back to the crowd. He had to constantly keep his foot on the mic stand leg to keep from getting hit in the face too hard. Between songs people kept crashing down on him. He muttered, "There isn't even any music. What the fuck......." The band couldn't always see each other, so they had to shout out what the next song was gonna be over the PA.
Near the end, some Justin Bieber looking idiot decided to grab the mic to sing along, disconnecting it and losing the cord underneath all the feet. He was to busy singing with his eyes closed to realize the mic was unplugged, so I found the cord and grabbed the mic from him. At this point, the stand was long gone, so for the last two songs I just held the mic for Jared. Not really the kind of show I wanted to shoot one-handed, but what're ya gonna do?
As I held it, bodies slammed into Jared's back, I could feel the impact of his teeth hitting the microphone, and he looked at me with this big smile. It was like he was in a tornado of people. A huge crush came in, and he was gone under a writhing pile of bodies. When he scrambled up, still playing, he got on top of the crowd and climbed up to the second level of the boat to finish the show.
I talked with him downstairs after their set. He told me they're recording a new album, and it's being done on the fly, like most of their other albums. "It's 60% done. We've been working on it whenever we get a chance. It'll be out next spring, and we're gonna do a big tour with Deerhunter." Other future plans include, "We're trying to play Iraq, we've got friends over there, so we're working on that. Hopefully that'll go smoother than our trip to Kurdistan, where we missed our flight because Joe forgot his wallet," he laughed. "We're gonna take a break from long tours and finish this record. One-off shows and stuff, but no long trips in the van til next year. It's the longest break we've had in over seven years." Some of their one-off dates in August are Austin on the 10th and the Hellow Festival in Monterray, Mexico on the 28th.
More pictures from the show below...