Live Review: Black Lips with Cerebral Ballzy & Grave Babies @ Neumos 6/16

all photos by Dave Lichterman

Since I first heard the Black Lips recently-released sixth studio album, Arabia Mountain, I had nearly been salivating at the idea of seeing the raucous Georgia foursome perform it live. Not only is the record stacked with high-energy numbers that are guaranteed to bring the house down, but I had yet to see one of the Black Lips’ notoriously wild and borderline disturbing live shows, which have been known to include spitting, kissing, and various bodily functions being spilled upon the stage…what’s not to look forward to?

Preceding the Black Lips were the Grave Babies, who I unfortunately had to miss (they’ll be at the Capitol Hill Block Party, though), and Brooklyn punk outfit Cerebral Ballzy, whose shirtless, glistening lead man inaudibly screamed lyrics concerning beer, girls, not having enough money for the subway, and other typical punk subjects. It was the most hardcore show I’d seen in a while, and it caused a full-on mosh pit to form in front of the stage while the rest of the venue watched politely from a safe distance.

Grave Babies

Cerebral Ballzy

For how out of control and seemingly drug-addled the Black Lips are, their appearance is relatively clean cut, perhaps owing to their Southern roots – lead man Jared Swilley set the tone by sporting short, neatly-trimmed hair and a button up shirt. The only other instances of the band’s Georgia-ness coming through were guitarist Ian Saint Pé Brown’s repeated complaints about not being able to drink onstage and just-as-oft-repeated questionings of the audience for information regarding after parties, all of which were uttered with a friendly Georgia drawl. These, however, were the only aspects of their performance that could be considered polite.

The foursome had Neumos absolutely (and quite literally) rocking from the first song onward; when you can actually feel the floor bouncing under the audience’s energy, you know it’s a good show. The frenzy was all due to the fact that the band was in fifth gear from start to finish, bringing just as much reckless energy to their songs as one would hope. Throughout their set – a healthy mix of old and new songs – sweat was flying on and off stage, body surfers rose and fell, and empty drink cups (and sometimes not quite empty drink cups) were regularly hurled past band members’ heads. Fortunately the bodily functions were limited to guitarist Cole Alexander’s habit of tilting his head back, hawking a loogie in the air, and trying to catch it in his mouth mid-song...And yes, there was a brief instance of guy-on-guy kissing between Alexander and Saint Pé Brown. It all added up to one of the wildest shows I’d seen in a long time, but for the Black Lips it was all in a night’s work.

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