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

KIM PETRAS at Cal Coast Credit Union Amphitheater

Just in time for Halloween, Kim Petras and Troye Sivan set hearts racing at the Cal Coast Credit Union Amphitheater

The arena was quiet awaiting the up and coming artist Kim Petras. Kim Petras recently released an album— Turn Off the Light Vol. 1. which was released October 1st. The album is themed around the spookiness of Halloween, which is such a memorable way to introduce herself to new fans. Currently Kim Petras is touring with Troye Sivan on his Bloom Tour, and opens the show for him.

Right away, Kim Petras came out onto the stage prepared to make the crowd dance right along with her. Sporting a black jacket, shorts, and sparkly tall sneakers, the artist looked equal parts serious and fun.  Accompanying her was Aaron, the designated hype man of the night who mixed and controlled the music of the performance, all while still making sure to make active connections with the audience.

Photo by Aya Nelson

A super memorable aspect of Petras’ performance was that in between songs, Kim made sure to check in with the audience and talk to them. I feel like a majority of artists stop doing things like this after getting big. At best, it oftentimes feels like a scripted part of their performance, whereas with Kim, it was personal, authentic and refreshing. Additionally, her performance was amazing. While her sound is mostly electronic based, what distinguished her was that you could actually hear her hit the long high notes, and she wasn’t fighting with the volume of the track. Her voice was strong and she was definitely not afraid to belt and show her talent to the arena. She is definitely a must see live and radiates empowerment with her upbeat music. Some standouts from the night include “Tell Me It’s A Nightmare,” “I Don’t Want It All,” and “Heart to Break.” Arguably, the best song she performed was “Can’t Do Better,” since Kim’s energy was so contagious that you couldn’t help but scream the lyrics along with her. You could even feel the lyrics resonate within her. She is a unique artist, and it will be so exciting watch how she grows as an artist.

Written by: Dominique Torres
Photos by: Aya Nelson

Interpol @ Open Air Theater

People thought rock was dead; Interpol showed us otherwise.

Legendary post-punk band Interpol came to shred underneath the disco ball at the CalCoast Credit Union Open Air Theater, just one of many stops on their North American tour promoting their sixth studio album, Marauder. Completing the night’s bill were indie-rock trio Sunflower Bean and punk duo The Kills – a lineup which had several of my friends drooling with envy when I told them I’d be in attendance. Which, if I’m being honest, left me more than a little confused. Who listens to rock anymore? Punk hasn’t been cool since the Arctic Monkeys abandoned ship and indie-rock is teetering on the edge of irrelevance post-Mac Demarco. Although these claims may border on outrageous, it cannot be denied that the rock genre has been eclipsed in recent years by pop, EDM, and hip-hop.

Clearly none of the groups on stage got that memo.

Kicking off the night in outfits that would make any art hoe scream “yassss queen,” Sunflower Bean came to rock n roll. Straying from the Fleetwood Mac-influenced sound of their studio recordings, the trio amped up the energy with ripping solos from guitarist Nick Kivlen and raw, throaty vocals from singer/bassist Julia Cumming. With their blonde heads a-banging and trousers a-sparkling, Sunflower Bean’s entire existence pays homage to the genre which birthed them. Unfortunately, the band did suffer from the Indifferent Crowd Syndrome (ICS) that commonly plagues opening acts. Despite seemingly fazing the band, they still left the stage with this bold statement: “We’re Sunflower Bean and don’t you forget it!” Don’t worry, girl, I won’t.

Tunes to scope out: I Was Home, Twentytwo, I Was a Fool

Up next came the skinny-jean clad duo The Kills. The most notable aspect of their performance was the “the strut;” considering it’s been 15 years since their first LP, singer Allison Mosshart’s ability to own whatever stage her leather boots find themselves is downright impressive. Limbs rolling, long blond hair flowing, her control and ease over the environment is almost enough to compensate for the incomplete sound produced by the two guitars and drum kit. With moody, analog interludes, experimental guitar synths, the Kills are looking to take the genre somewhere. Where exactly, they have no definitive answer.

Tunes to scope out: Doing It to Death, Baby Says

At this point in the show, I was still inclined to believe that rock n roll is dead. Sunflower Bean and the Kills were both great bands, but neither seem to have the potential to revive the ailing genre. But as I furiously typed notes into my phone, I heard it. Life. The audience roars and rises to their feet as Interpol arrived to save us all.

Photo credited to the San Diego Union Tribune

Let me paint the scene for ya. A dark stage. Simple white spotlights cast light from behind the band, creating an eerie shadow of a band already dressed black. Then a single white light behind center stage rises to meet the disco ball, splaying light out to the crowd. It’s a simple set-up, but effective; Interpol’s music can speak for itself. You get the feeling they are at the service of the music. The band has mastered a suave rock sound that seduces you with every melancholy lyric singer Paul Banks wails with his haunting twang, and I am hit by a wall of sound, filled with textures and colors I’ve seen before, but perhaps not in this combination. Every song “bangs” and I can’t help but move my body to the beat, swaying my head back and forth so that I could hear every note. You can listen to Interpol’s entire set with your eyes closed, the music is a show in and of itself. And then it’s over, and I feel as if I’ve been abruptly woken from a sweet dream. The band humbly exits, it’s duty to the music completed: “We are Interpol, and that’s what we got.”

So, much to my chagrin, rock does live! It has bands like Interpol to keep its heart beating, and an audience desperate to consume it. The problem is that we’ve heard all these sounds before. Interpol’s music is superb, but the band has done little experimenting in their long career. I guess it’s true, if it’s not broke, don’t fix it, but sticking with a sound that just works isn’t enough to compete with pop and hip-hop artists who cater to fans with an incessant appetite for new content. Interpol’s Marauder is enough to keep rock alive, if only just alive.

Tunes to scope out: If You Really Love Nothing, Evil, Pioneer to the Falls

Review by: Michaela Alejandra

Hoodie Allen at the House of Blues San Diego

Hoodie Allen brought fun, food, and games alongside a fantastic set at the San Diego House of Blues!

The House of Blues San Diego welcomed rapper Hoodie Allen for his Hanging with Hoodie Tour 2018 on Friday, September 21, 2018. This tour allowed all fans who purchased a general admission ticket to meet Hoodie Allen at no cost, as well as releasing VIP tickets for dedicated and long-time fans. The small and intimate venue was decorated to highlight the carnival theme of this tour with circus games, raffle tickets, and prizes for fans to enjoy.

To start off the show, the opening act, Gianni & Kyle, energized the crowd with a few of their popular songs like, “5 Shots” and “Do You Even Miss Me At All?”. The duo’s 45 minute set allowed fans to build up enough adrenaline to prepare for their favorite headliner, Hoodie Allen.

Kyle of the rap duo, Gianni and Kyle, singing to the crowd

 

Gianni of the rap duo, Gianni and Kyle, patting his chest while following along to their song, “Do You Even Miss Me At All?”

 

Now, as an absolute “super-fan” of Steven Markowitz (aka Hoodie Allen), I had to opt in for the VIP purchase to get the ultimate experience. With the purchase of VIP, fans are able to take photos with the artist, obtain a signed Polaroid photo memento, receive a drawstring bag with small goodies from the tour, get the opportunity to purchase merchandise first, and were given “first dibs” for standing in the front row when the artist performs. Based on my experience, I was very pleased with the organization of this concert, including Hoodie Allen’s very respectful crew. I was able to talk to him in-between photos and, to my surprise, he even remembered me from the last time I saw him back in 2016.

Front row view before Hoodie Allen performs

Before the set, I had the pleasure of noting that this particular fan base was incredibly friendly. And contrary to typical concerts, their was not a single form of violence or negative behavior even suggested . Everyone amongst the crowd, including myself, made new friends and discussed how long they had been fans of Hoodie Allen. Based on my quick survey with the fans around me, a majority of fans wanted to hear Hoodie perform his 2012 single, “No Interruption.”

When the show began, I’ll admit, I had my own “fan-girl” moment and started screaming in excitement when he began his performance with his 2012 single, “Eighteen Cool;” a song which set the tone his the remainder of the night. Considering the fact that this venue was intimate enough to fit approximately 150-200 fans, concert-goers were consistently able to get clips and photos throughout his set. Additionally, two of the songs which Hoodie performed came straight from his new EP that will be announced & released sometime this year; the tracks, “Wasting All My Time” and “Operation”, were performed for the very first time on this tour in preparation for the release of his as-of-yet unnamed EP. As the night continued, he performed the short version of older tracks such as, “The Chase Is On”, “James Franco”, and “You Are Not Robot”.

Hoodie Allen talking to fans and crew about what song should be played next

In addition to performing, Hoodie Allen included multiple interactive event for fans to participate in. For this show, Hoodie Allen brought out some games for fans to play. The first game had fans spinning his carnival wheel, which allowed 1 lucky fan to determine which bonus song would be performed on this leg of the tour. For San Diegans, the wheel landed on the song, “Show Me What You’re Made Of”, which brought immense happiness to his older fans. He also included a trivia buzzer game, where two fans competed one-on-one on their knowledge about the the artist; the prize being Hoodie Allen caking the loser of the trivia game.

Now, if you are not educated on the Hoodie Allen tour traditions, here’s a fun fact for you. Fans will purchase cakes and decorate them to give to Hoodie’s backstage crew for one sole reason: to throw them into the audience during the show. This tradition started because of Hoodie’s well-known song, “Cake Boy,” which later lead to fans preparing ahead of time to avoid getting cake all over them.

As we have all learned over-time, all concerts must come to an end with the most popular song the artist has released. To my surprise, Hoodie Allen performed two encore songs to ensure this concert ended at an all-time high. The songs, “No Faith in Brooklyn” and “No Interruption” were the absolute best song choices to end Hoodie’s San Diego tour stop.

Overall, I was very happy with my experience seeing my favorite artist, Hoodie Allen, perform once again in San Diego. The atmosphere remained positive all night long thanks to the fans’ respect towards the artist and one another. Anyone whose interested in listening to an up-and-coming artist should definitely give Hoodie Allen a chance. Hopefully he’ll make you a forever fan as well.

Reviewed by: Sofia Gomez
Photos by: Sofia Gomez