Review – Black Lips at the Rickshaw Theatre, Vancouver June 15, 2011
– review by Ria Nevada/photos by Rachel Fox
Wednesday night got off to a rocky start with the Boston Bruins snagging the Stanley Cup from Vancouver’s beloved Canucks. As soon as the game concluded, I rushed over to the Rickshaw, trying to bypass the rioting on the streets. The dark, retro theatre served as a safe haven from the smoky air, stench of tear gas, and unwarranted violent behaviour in the city’s core.
Just as I stepped in, Brooklyn punk rockers Cerebral Ballzy were running amuck on the stage. The hyperactive group burned through a series of two-minute numbers revolving around booze and skateboarding. Lead singer Honor periodically encouraged the crowd to release their pent-up frustration in circle pits, creating an environment of organized chaos. Beer cans, inflated orcas and alien dolls were being tossed in the air and bleach blonde chicks were ramming into burly men in spiky leather jackets, but believe me, it was far more dignified and controlled than the stunts being pulled by the hooligans on Granville.
Guitarist Ian Saint Pe of the Black Lips cordially greeted the audience in his adorable Georgia accent before the band sprang through tunes from their extensive repertoire. First up was “Family Tree”, the opening track from their latest record Arabia Mountain. True to their “flower-punk” style, the track bares remnants of ’60s and ’70s psych-rock with a rapid punk beat. Eyes couldn’t be peeled from drummer Joe Bradley, the band’s irrepressible epicentre. His moppy hair flipped with every head bang and forceful sweep he made on his cymbals. I couldn’t believe that this was the meek character who was sitting beside me in the upper balcony just minutes prior.
Bradley took lead vocals on a few songs, including the scraggly, surfabilly “Not a Problem”. The band’s momentum slowed down for a minute as the audience swooned to the poppy melody of “Dirty Hands”. That was about as mellow as the night would get: the rest of their set consisted of concise, gritty punk numbers with a Southern blues twist. Black Lips’ harmonies weren’t tight and guitar solos were unkempt, but no one should see the Black Lips expecting a clean and precise show. Their DIY and somewhat disorderly performance is their trademark, and fans love them for their loose and unpretentious attitude.
The guys seem unfazed by the PBR cans being thrown onto the stage. In fact, Saint Pe merely head-punted a few back into the audience. The only time bassist Jared Swilley and guitarist Cole Alexander grew distracted was when two vixens began pulling some go-go dancer moves on their monitors. One of the ladies should have wiped the drool off Swilley, as he clearly wanted to get in on the grinding action between the ladies.
I certainly appreciated the fun-filled atmosphere that the Black Lips brought to Vancouver, and only wished that more people made it to the show to witness the punk veterans killing it at the Rickshaw.