Vancouver Special: Vundabar at the Fox Cabaret

Vundabar playing at the Fox Cinema

Boston-based “sludgy jangly pop” (per their Facebook About page) trio Vundabar went on an expansive North American tour with a number of different supporting acts.

Vundabar came to Vancouver’s Fox Cabaret with support from El Monte, California’s The Red Pears and Washington’s Le Grotto.

The Fox Cabaret is a historic venue in Vancouver’s hip Mount Pleasant neighborhood that hosts touring bands, themed dance parties, and intimate comedy shows. Until 2013, the Fox was actually an adult movie theater known as the Fox Cinema. After a thorough cleaning and a major facelift, the Fox Cabaret was opened in 2014 among the craft breweries, vegan donut shops, and themed bars that populate the area.

I arrived at the Fox around 9:00 and Le Grotto was midway through their set. The venue wasn’t full yet, but everyone who was there seemed into the band’s ‘70s-inspired rock (including me). I’d call them garage rock, but their Facebook genre is listed as “Vaping Rules”. Take my label with a grain of salt, I suppose.

The Red Pears were up next. For a sad Canadian girl like me who’s perpetually missing the Southern California music scene, they were a nostalgic treat to have in Vancouver. They reminded me so much of all the local San Diego surf/garage rock bands that I miss dearly. As The Red Pears concluded their set and began packing up their equipment, the familiar sound of the Growlers rang out over the speakers. If you read my review of the Growlers’ Snow Ball show, you know that for me, there is only the Growlers. I danced around to “Who Loves the Scum?”, inadvertently clapping at the end as if I were actually at a Growlers show.

Fortunately, The Fox Cabaret really knows how to get people excited for their next act.

Vundabar came out around 10:00 as the crowd moved in toward the stage that has had countless pornographic films projected above it. They opened with “$$$”, a six-minute-long song from 2018’s Smell Smoke. Things were immediately off to an uproarious start.

I find Vundabar’s sound a bit hard to describe. I hear a lot of grunge in the tracks from their newest record, Smell Smoke. However, the first single from that record, “Acetone”, leans much more towards pop punk. Their self-imposed “sludgy jangly pop” label feels pretty accurate, especially for 2015’s Gawk. Genre labels aside, the energy they put into their shows is infectious, and the crowd at the Fox reciprocated by keeping things rowdy throughout their set.

The band played all their well-known favorites, including “Alien Blues”, “Holy Toledo”, and “Oulala”. Lead vocalist Brandon Hagen’s signature rapport with his bandmates and with the crowd made everything extra fun, particularly when a piece of the drum set went missing and we had to wait for a replacement to be brought out.

Unfortunately, Vundabar’s set was cut short to allow time to set up for the 80s vs. 90s dance party that was scheduled after the show. For once, the band’s “last song” actually was the last song, as the crowd’s cheers for an encore were left unfulfilled. I, however, was treated to yet another song by the Growlers as the 80s vs. 90s DJs set up their booth. If we weren’t going to get a Vundabar encore, dancing around to “City Club” was good enough for me.

Written by: Andrea Renney

A “Vancouver Special” is a popular style of home that was built in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada in mass quantities between the years of 1965 to 1985. The homes are boxlike and visually unappealing, often featuring a second-floor balcony on the front of the house and a stucco exterior with brick accents. Vancouver Specials are still seen in most Greater Vancouver neighborhoods despite the city’s major gentrification and increase in property development over the last few decades.
Vancouver Special is also a new series on the KCR College Radio Blog featuring show reviews, interviews, and maybe other things located in/related to Vancouver. The series is written by KCR member and ex-SDSU exchange student Andrea Renney. This is KCR Canada.

The Growlers’ Snow Ball III (Night Two) at the Wiltern

The Growlers bring their signature Beach Goth style to Los Angeles’ Wiltern Theatre for two nights of Christmas-themed theatrics!

It’s the second week of January. Christmas is over, and you’ve got the credit card bill and weight gain to prove it. The excitement of New Year’s Eve has disappeared, replaced with morning-after regrets and the realization that you’re making the same bad decisions that you were in 2018. All you’ve got to look forward to now is the upcoming semester of school and, if you’re me, your impending return to Canada. The going is getting tough.

Allow me to transport you back to a more magical time. A time full of whimsy, mischief, and light debauchery. It’s December 22nd. Christmas is approaching, you’re finished with school and work, and your best friend Mariah has just arrived in San Diego despite almost having her entire vacation cancelled the day it was supposed to begin. You drive to Los Angeles for what will become one of the most special concerts of your life: it’s night two of The Growlers’ Snow Ball, the self-proclaimed “beach goth” band’s third annual holiday extravaganza at the Wiltern Theatre.

Havin’ a ball at Snow Ball III.

The Growlers are big in the Southern California surf/garage/psych rock scene, and for good reason. Formed in 2006, the band has developed a unique sound that’s immediately recognizable as distinctively their own. Despite numerous changes to their lineup, frequent label switches, and explorations of new musical styles, one constant that underpins The Growlers’ music is vocalist Brooks Nielsen’s signature raspy vocals. When they’re not making music, The Growlers also host their annual Beach Goth festival (now put on independently by the band after legal issues with the Observatory in 2016) and frequently tour the globe. During their live shows, the band is known for their wild costumes and elaborate stage designs. Even knowing this, I still wasn’t prepared for what I’d see at Snow Ball.

Leading up to the show…

Despite not being die-hard Growlers fans, Mariah and I planned to make the trip to LA for the second night of Snow Ball. When tickets went on sale, we were aghast at the roughly $60 price tag. “Who do they think they are, Beyonce?” “No openers? How egotistical!” Surprisingly (to us), the Saturday show sold out and people were reselling tickets for upwards of $100 each. Despite this, we set off for Los Angeles on December 22nd with the hope that we’d end up at the show that night. After dealing with numerous people from Craigslist who we believe were scammers, we finally secured tickets from two people we found on The Growlers’ subreddit (pro tip for finding legit resale tickets!). An hour before doors were set to open, we found ourselves in a line that extended down Wilshire Boulevard and wrapped around the corner.

The big reveal

Have you ever actually stopped in your tracks? I used to think that was just a phrase used in novels for hyperbolic effect: “She stepped through the doorway and stopped in her tracks.” However, upon having my ticket successfully scanned to enter the Wiltern, I stepped through the doorway and stopped in my tracks. I had not anticipated the level of production The Growlers had curated for this show.

Red and white striped candy canes lined either side of the path into the main lobby. Upon closer inspection, these “candy canes” were actually joints, or “doobies” as Mariah called them. She is actually a middle aged dad. “Snow Ball” was spelled out in glittery letters suspended from the ceiling. To our right was a spot to take photos with Biker Santa, straight ahead was a spot to take photos with the Grinch. Christmas carolers covering The Growlers’ songs greeted you as you descended the stairs to the lower level of the venue. Balloons, signature holiday-themed drinks, inflatable snowmen – there was so much going on we surely didn’t see it all. Decorations aside, the Wiltern is a beautiful and historic venue worthy of commendation on its own. Mariah and I immediately realized why ticket prices were so high for the Snow Ball shows and felt bad for being so ruthlessly critical of The Growlers in the weeks leading up to the show.

“Candy canes”

The DJs that kept us occupied before the main event were spinning straight bangers for an hour and a half – fun old tunes, Motown, The Smiths, nothing pretentious. Just after 8:30, they made an abrupt exit as the lights dimmed. Christmas music began playing, and a feeling of excitement and suspense was palpable throughout the sold-out crowd. As the curtains were whisked open, shrieks and gasps could be heard throughout the venue.

The stage was unveiled, revealing a life-size recreation of the hotel and vacancy sign from the Problems III music video, now dubbed the Snow Ball III Hotel. Set against a mountainous backdrop, the color of the lights illuminating the set would change throughout the night to fit the mood of each song. The musicians were wearing white pants, bow ties, and red, fur-trimmed coats. However, this wasn’t quite The Growlers yet – after dealing with some lineup changes in 2016, the “official” members (as far as I know) are only Brooks Nielsen on vocals, Matt Taylor on lead guitar, and Kyle Straka on keyboards and guitar. We’d have to wait a little longer for the full band.

Rooms 4 rent by the hour.

The never-ending setlist

The night started off with a rendition of “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch”, complete with a horn section and a cameo appearance by the Grinch himself. The aforementioned carolers then took the stage for a few songs, closing with “We Wish You a Merry Growlers Christmas”. Finally, we were asked to welcome to the stage “what’s left of The Growlers” as Nielsen, Taylor, and Straka joined the rest of the band (lineup changes, am I right?). They opened with “Night Ride” from 2016’s City Club amid deafening cheers.

Standout songs from the night’s setlist were plentiful and included: “One Million Lovers” and “Pet Shop Eyes” from 2013’s Hung at Heart, which everyone sang along to. “Black Memories” and “Love Test”, both from 2014’s Chinese Fountain. A cover of The Shirelles’ “Mama Said”, the perfect song for my preferred style of dancing. The 2017 single “Monotonía”, which I’d only been introduced to a few weeks before. “Navaeh”, heartfelt and acoustic, from last July’s Casual Acquaintances. The songs were really just a vehicle for Brooks’ top-notch dancing, which Mariah and I spent the night mimicking. I’m happy to say I’ve added some new moves to my arsenal (left hand over stomach, right hand in the air as if holding a microphone, rocking side to side).

The only two songs they didn’t play that I would have liked to hear were “The Daisy Chain” and “World Unglued” from City Club. Other than that, I heard every Growlers song I’ve ever wanted to hear. In one show. Talk about bang for your buck. I’m surprised I didn’t burst into spontaneous tears when “Someday” started and I finally heard my favorite Growlers song live. I’m more surprised I didn’t cry during “Lonely This Christmas”, as Brooks serenaded each and every one of us while fake snow cascaded over him.

The only snow I ever want to see is fake snow floating down onto Brooks Nielsen’s head.

Like I said, The Growlers were never my favorite band. I like their music a lot, but there was just something about them that prevented me from entering obsession territory. Since Snow Ball, everything has changed. Mariah and I listened to their cover of “Lonely This Christmas” on repeat (literally, we put it on repeat) for seven days.  I’ve begun my descent into watching every video related to the band on YouTube. If your Tinder anthem is a Growlers song, I’m swiping right. The obsession grows each day. There is only The Growlers.

The Growlers closed out Snow Ball III with “Going Gets Tough” from Chinese Fountain. It’s a song of hope and happier days to come, and also a song that gave me momentary comfort during the hellish two hours on December 20th wherein I thought Mariah’s vacation to San Diego was cancelled and I was going to be Lonely This Christmas. It was a beautiful and pure send off after a dreamlike, awe-inspiring night. Post-Growlers, the opening notes of Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas Is You” (naturally) rang out. Mariah (not Carey) and I grabbed each other’s hands, I kicked off my shoes for some reason, and a holiday dance party and sing-a-long ensued.

All in all, The Growlers played for about two and a half hours with no breaks. The costumes, the stage design, and the decorations throughout the Wiltern were completely over the top (in the best way) and exceeded any expectations I had had for the show. Whatever your opinion of their music is, you have to respect the level of effort, planning, and heart that The Growlers put into these Snow Ball shows. And while I’m sure the band does get enjoyment out of playing them, I like to believe shows like Snow Ball exist as a way to give back to their fans at the end of the year. So thank you to The Growlers for giving me what ended up being one of my favorite memories of 2018.

Andrea Renney loves crying to The Growlers, writing for KCR, and crying about not writing for KCR anymore. She wishes everyone at San Diego State a beautiful spring semester.

Written by: Andrea Renney
Pictures by: Andrea Renney
--From all of us at KCR, we'll miss you Andrea!

Top Music Picks of 2018 (That I Actually Listened To)

2018 was a year of new music from established favorites, debut full-lengths from up-and-coming artists, and singles in advance of forthcoming releases

As 2018 comes to a close, so too does my time at KCR, at San Diego State, and in San Diego in general. Between bouts of crying and while avoiding thinking about returning to Canada (the land of arctic boredom and a much more affordable healthcare system), I’ve spent some time reflecting on the new music released in 2018 that has soundtracked my California existence.

Southern California is a melting pot for the surf, garage, and punk genres, music that’s perfect for cruising down the freeway in the sunshine to (check out the undercard for this year’s Tropicalia Festival lineup and you’ll get a sense of what I’m talking about). As such, the majority of the new music I’ve been listening to and seeing live this year has come from bands based in California. However, the Golden State is almost always a stop for touring bands, so I’ve also had the chance to hear new stuff from those that hail from outside our perfect West Coast bubble.

So as a final parting gift to the loyal readers of my KCR blog posts (read: people on my Facebook friends list), I present to you: California Andrayah’s* favorite music released in 2018. As a fun bonus, I’ve included the most fitting freeways and neighborhoods to serve as a backdrop for your listening, based on my personal experiences. Let’s be real: you need a car to get around in San Diego, and since you can’t pick up AM 1610 all over the county, you’re going to need to play your own music if you can’t listen to San Diego’s Best AM/FM Radio Station according to The San Diego Union-Tribune 2018 Reader’s Poll. I’m talking about KCR here. It’s us. We’re the best.

*as an (un)interesting aside, every person I’ve met in California has pronounced my name like An-DRAY-ah. Technically, I am actually AN-dree-ah. I might stick with my new moniker, though, in an effort to try to convince myself I’m still in San Diego, going to Better Buzz four times a week and drinking alone at the Ugly Dog Bar when they’ve got a sour on special for $3 Tuesdays.

Records:

hoodratscumbags – Beach Goons

hoodratscumbags

Logan Heights’ Beach Goons released hoodratscumbags this August, and my introduction to the band was through this record on the day it came out. If you were lucky enough to catch them at The Live Wire, KCR’s new flagship concert series, back in September, you know that Beach Goons offers SoCal surf/garage rock with a Cumbia twist. hoodratscumbags marks the first release for Beach Goons in a couple years and the new record was highly anticipated by their fans. Founding member Pablo Cervantez sought to recognize Beach Goons’ Chicano/Mexican heritage with their new music, and songs like “Chunti” and “A.M.” really emphasize this influence.

Top picks: Vatos Tristes, Hrsb

Best use: Is it lame to listen to Beach Goons while driving down Logan Avenue? Maybe, but I’ve done it. Otherwise, hoodratscumbags is a good choice for driving around Ocean Beach. Consider playing it as you roll up to the Robb Field Skate Park so the skaters know you’re down with the local music scene. I recently bought my first skateboard, and this is a fact that I like to make known as much as possible.

My Own Mess – Skegss

My Own Mess

Australian garage/surf trio Skegss released their debut full-length back in September before embarking on a tour of their homeland with Chicago’s Twin Peaks. Maybe it’s Australia’s similar climate and its cultural emphasis on surfing, but My Own Mess fits right in with our SoCal music scene. It’s chock-full of slacker anthems about partying, watching TV, and fucking up. My favorite track on the record, “Margarita”, is one of those rare songs that I heard and instantly fell in love with, immediately qualifying it for Banger Status. If you’re a fan of bands like The Frights, SWMRS, or FIDLAR, you’ll probably be stoked on Skegss.

Top picks: Margarita, My Mind

Best use: Skegss is the band you want to start your day with. Not if your day consists of school or work, but when your day will be spent doing something fun, like laying on the beach or skateboarding. I have a skateboard now, so I can relate to this. My Own Mess is reserved for the 8 West (never the 8 East – this ain’t for driving home at the end of your fun day) on your way to the beach, or maybe the 5/805 North, if you’re bougie and heading to a beach in La Jolla.

I Don’t Run – Hinds

I Don't Run

This April, Hinds released I Don’t Run as a follow up to their debut record, 2016’s Leave Me Alone. Their sophomore effort is similar to Leave Me Alone musically, but it’s not a carbon copy. The all-girl garage rock group from Madrid, Spain digs a little deeper on I Don’t Run, and lyrically the songs get personal and serious at times. That’s not to say the music is slow and sad – the record still largely consists of the irresistibly fun and catchy songs Hinds is well known for.

Top picks: Tester, Rookie

Best use: Take a girls-only day trip to Los Angeles and put on I Don’t Run as you roll down Melrose Avenue scoping out your next Instagram photo op. Otherwise, a fun and semi-manipulative idea is to play “Tester” when driving with a guy who you suspect could be cheating on you, particularly for the lyric “Should I have known before you were also banging her?” I’m not actually speaking from experience here (give me a little credit), but I could see myself doing this. Or at least considering it.

Onion – Shannon and the Clams

Onion

I think Shannon and the Clams is one of the most underrated bands of our time. They blend doo-wop, surf, and garage rock into a unique sound that’s perfectly nostalgic, a sound that’s not often heard these days. I’m usually more of a music person than a lyrics person, but the lyrics on Onion‘s tracks stand out with their raw emotion and poignant themes. Set to the Clams’ signature retro instrumentals, the result is foot-tapping, danceable songs that are painfully beautiful underneath.

If I had to pick one record from this list to recommend to someone who hadn’t heard any of them, in the hopes that they would discover a new band to obsess over, it would be Onion. Send tweet.

Top picks: If You Could Know, The Boy

Best use: I like to listen to Shannon and the Clams during the rare times when I’m in 5:30 PM traffic, because I can be safely reckless and dance along to it while driving. A favorite spot is getting off the 163 and onto the 8, near Fashion Valley. It takes fifteen minutes to move half a mile – you can dance through the first five songs on the record while you wait.

The Dream and the Deception – The Aquadolls

The Dream and the Deception

Like Shannon and the Clams, I think The Aquadolls don’t get nearly the amount of recognition they deserve. The tracklist for The Dream and the Deception features nineteen songs that span the emotional spectrum, from sad to silly to pissed off. Singer, guitarist, and songwriter Melissa Brooks’ commitment to The Aquadolls is admirable – she self-released this record online in October and has plans to press it in on vinyl via her own label in the new year.

Top picks: Cigboi, Communicationissexy/Idkhow2communicate

Best use: My top picks above are fitting for driving home on the 94 East on a moody, rainy Friday night. You’ve left-swiped through everyone on Tinder and you’re feeling hopeless and lonely. “Why am I so alone?” you cry, as you ignore everyone and make no effort to meet people. Switch over to something more upbeat and positive, like “I’m a Star”, to remind yourself that you are, in fact, a star.

3 – Sextile

3

Good god, do I love Sextile. I love getting into music that’s a lot different than the usual things I listen to (see every other record on this list), and Sextile stands in stark contrast to the reverb-heavy surf rock that’s so popular in Southern California.  The Los Angeles based duo is not like anything I’ve ever heard – all the headbang-inducing and moshpit-inciting energy of punk with the added twist of a new wave dance beat. If you’ve ever wanted to go to a club and dance all night amid cool visuals, but you’re a bit too punk rock for something like that, check out Sextile.

Top picks: Spun, Paradox

Best use: Don’t listen to this in your car. See them live! Dance around in the strobe lights! Inhale the smoke machine smoke! Get slammed into and have your front row spot taken by a psycho ex! It’s all part of the experience.

Hypochondriac – The Frights

Hypochondriac

The Frights put out their third record, Hypochondriac, on Epitaph Records after signing with the punk label earlier this year. It’s quite a departure from 2016’s You Are Going To Hate This, and an even farther trip from 2013’s The Frights. Many of the songs are a lot softer and sadder, with the exception of the pop-punk/emo track “CRUTCH”. The new sound is good in its own right, but if you’re looking for the same surf-inspired tunes that put The Frights on the map, you’re going to need to look elsewhere.

Top picks: Alone, Whatever

Best use: The Frights will always remind me of driving on the 8 East and taking the College Avenue exit to get back to State (shoutout to “Cold” from The Frights for being my spring 2018 anthem). Otherwise, the driving vibe can vary: sometimes I’m shouting along angrily to “Over It” as I drive to the Taco Bell at University/College, sometimes I’m crying to “Goodbyes” on the 5. It’s a spectrum.

Singles:

“Drip” – The Marías and Triathalon

Drip

A definite outlier on this list, but if Statistics 101 taught me anything, it’s that…outliers exist? They validate your data? I don’t know. Anyway, this is a cool song. The Marías call themselves a “psychedelic soul” band, and Triathalon makes lo-fi R&B. The union of the two results in a multi-layered song that coalesces flawlessly – The Marías come in first with their signature funky-yet-smooth sound, Triathalon enters with a slowed-down, dreamy verse, and they link up in the outro. It is, in a word, a vibe.

Best use: This one’s a bit tricky. It’s definitely a nighttime song, but it’s not a party song. Play this at the end of the night, when you’re winding down and driving home after drinks at Sycamore Den in Normal Heights. The freeway is nearly empty and you can really feel the groove.

“Are You High?” – FIDLAR

Are You High?

Where can I download this damn song, FIDLAR? One of four tracks released by the band in 2018 (together with “Alcohol”, “Too Real”, and “Can’t You See”, from their upcoming third record Almost Free), it seems “Are You High?” was only released along with a music video on YouTube. It’s a shame, as this song is catchy as hell. It’s FIDLAR through and through, with strong guitars and lyrics referencing struggles with addiction. Guess you’ll just have to catch it at one of their live shows.

Best use: I’ve only ever listened to this on my Macbook while sitting in bed. So that, I guess.

“Glo Ride” – Hot Flash Heat Wave

Glo Ride

When I asked Nathan Blum and Ted Davis of Hot Flash Heat Wave (flex) if “Glo Ride” was indicative of what was to come for the band, Davis confirmed that their next record would be full of “headier, but still pop-oriented songs” like it. That appears to be the case, as they’ve since released two more songs that are in the same vein as this one. HFHW definitely seems to be heading in a more psychedelic direction, and “Glo Ride” is leading the way.

Actually, now that I’m listening to it again, this song is more similar to “Drip” than it is to the other music featured in this list. I’m not sure how this data affects the validity of my claims here. Oh well. Who really needs statistics? Just kidding. Stay in school, Aztecs.

Best use: I don’t really want to say this is a good makeout song, but… this is a good makeout song. Find a spot to park, and I’ll leave it at that.

Check out this Spotify playlist for all of the songs mentioned here.

Written by: Andrea Renney

Black Lips at Marty’s on Newport

Black Lips @ Marty's on Newport

Black Lips return to their wild roots with a rowdy, intimate bar show, showcasing new country-inspired songs and old favorites.

Atlanta’s “flower punk” rockers Black Lips are currently on the road on a co-headlining tour with Danish punk band Iceage, supported by Brooklyn-based punk band Surfbort. The tour kicked off on November 5th in Vancouver, British Columbia and continued down the west coast, including five California dates. As is apparently customary for me (I did the same thing in 2015), I chose to see my favorite band twice: first in Tustin, then in San Diego. While the San Diego show was sufficiently fun and memorable, the show in Tustin felt like the kind of special night that I might not get to experience again anytime soon.

When Black Lips announced this fall tour in June, I researched the venues for other Southern California dates to decide if the House of Blues in San Diego on November 13th would suffice as the lone date I’d attend. Marty’s on Newport in Tustin, California on November 11th stood out to me. I’d never heard of the place, and my only connection to Tustin was stopping at a Denny’s there on the way to Los Angeles in February. Some Google searches quickly revealed to me that Marty’s has a capacity of 150, and is basically just a bar that somehow manages to book pretty well-known touring bands. I bought my ticket the minute they went on sale.

Fast forward to November and I was curious about what this show at Marty’s would actually be like. Upon arriving to the venue just after 8:00, I realized that Marty’s is, in fact, just a bar. It’s located in an old strip mall next to a nail salon and an Indian grocery store. Parking is scarce, and various Yelp reviews warn that parking in the other businesses’ spots will result in a tow and a $375 charge. Yikes. Once inside, however, Marty’s felt intimate and homey. The u-shaped bar takes up a decent amount of the already-small space, and there are four or five booths along the back wall. It reminded me of the single bar in my small, northern British Columbia hometown, where classic rock cover bands rule the stage and you know 75% of the people on the dance floor. Throughout the night, members of all three bands on the night’s bill could be observed wading through the slowly-growing crowd. I pulled up a stool at the bar and kept a careful watch on “my” (mentally reserved for me, by me) front-row-center spot in front of the stage, which stood at knee-level for me and shin level for taller folks. There were no barricades or security in sight – be still, my heart.

Just before 9:00 I took my spot against the stage, and Surfbort began shortly after. Lead vocalist Dani Miller’s sequined hot pants and suit jacket covered in pornographic images were immediately eye-catching, and the photographers descended upon the front row (no photo pit here, either) to get their shots. Surfbort’s music is loud and effervescent, pure punk fun complemented by Miller’s dancing and gesticulations. The band recently released their debut full-length record, Friendship Music, and we were treated to a lot of their new songs during the half-hour set.

After a short break (quick turnaround between bands, a major benefit of a small venue), Iceage began their set. I think the sound was a little off, as Elias Ronnenfelt’s vocals were sometimes difficult to make out. Regardless, the music sounded great, with Iceage’s vaguely post-punk sound getting the crowd moving. The area directly in front of Ronnenfelt was somewhat of a danger zone, as the lead vocalist slipped a few times and nearly fell into the crowd. There was also a close call with his mic and my face towards the end of their set, but thankfully I was uninjured and Ronnenfelt made sure of this before continuing. All in all, Iceage provided an exciting experience to go along with their music. What’s a punk show without a little danger?

Around 11:15, Black Lips took the stage amid cheers from the tightly packed crowd. Vocalist and bassist Jared Swilley addressed us with his usual greeting, “We’re the Black Lips from Atlanta, Georgia. Thank y’all for coming out!”, as the first notes of “Can’t Hold On” (from 2017’s Satan’s Graffiti or God’s Art?) rang out. The moshpit opened up behind me soon after and it remained there for the rest of the night. I’d spend the next hour getting jostled around by the 21+ crowd that could still bring the rowdiness I usually only see at all-ages shows.

“O Katrina”, “Dirty Hands”, “Family Tree”, and “Stranger”, all staples at a Black Lips show, were met with the expected enthusiasm and singing along. Songs from their upcoming country record, including “Delia”, “Georgia”, and “Gentleman”, were well-received and gave some indication of the new sound Black Lips is exploring. In the end, songs from seven of the band’s eight full-length records were played, leaving out any selections from 2009’s 200 Million Thousand. It’s not their most well-known or commercially successful record, but I’d love to see “Drugs” make its way onto their setlist again. Also curiously missing from the night’s setlist was “Sea of Blasphemy” from 2005’s Let It Bloom, which the band often opens with. However, I suppose as more songs get added to the rotation, some unfortunately have to be retired.

Throughout the night, the band seemed to be in very good spirits, and I had a feeling this was the closest I would ever get to the wild, messy, sloppy Black Lips shows of yesteryear that I’ve only read about. Mic stands fell, caught by the hands of fans and the feet of the band. Necks of guitars swung out dangerously close to faces in the front row. Beers on stage were spilled, beers in the crowd were thrown. I was propelled forward onto the stage countless times, landing in a push-up position with my knees slamming into the sharp edge of the stage. Over a week later and I still have the bruises.

At the conclusion of any show, literally the only thing in the world I ever want is water. The leftover, unopened bottles of water that littered the stage called out to me as beacons of hope. Perhaps my adoring gaze was obvious, because as Black Lips’ tour manager Matt Williams cleared the stage of bottles and cans before the encore, he handed a full bottle of water right to me. I’ve never felt more VIP (and hydrated) in my life. I then reached over and took a setlist, because I’m a selfish person. You have to go after what you want, you see.

As I enjoyed my free water and ignored the throbbing in my heavily bruised knees, Black Lips returned to the stage for a couple more songs. As the crowd shouted out their requests, I was in the perfect position to make mine to Jared. “Wild Man!” I called out, referring to the 1967 single by the Tamrons – it’s one of my favorite songs that the band plays live. “Yeah, we’re going to play that one!” he replied, to which I visibly swooned (hand against chest, eyes up towards the sky). Be still, my heart. After “Wild Man”, which was as fun as I’d remembered, the band launched into “Bow Down and Die”, a song they’d recorded and released as The Almighty Defenders, a garage rock/gospel supergroup with King Khan and Mark Sultan of The King Khan & BBQ Show. And with that, they were gone, likely off to Los Angeles to prepare for their show at the Regent Theater the following night.

I’m usually happy with the size of venues that Black Lips plays, and their shows are always a great time. However, I don’t know that a band that’s reached the level of success and notoriety that Black Lips has will play many more 150-capacity bars. For this reason, their show at Marty’s on Newport will forever hold a special place in the already-large part of my heart reserved for Black Lips.

Black Lips Setlist Etc.

KCR recently spoke to vocalist and bassist Jared Swilley in advance of this tour. Check out that interview here.

Written by: Andrea Renney