Concert Review: Black Lips, Box Elders, Movers and Shakers @ Middle East Downstairs (3/25/10)

Bands: Black Lips, Box Elders, Movers and Shakers
Venue: Middle East Downstairs (Cambridge, MA)
Date: Thursday, March 25, 2010

Pre-Show: Once a year or so the Black Lips come to town. For me, Chris, and all big fans of the best band in the world, a Black Lips show is always highly anticipated. 2 months away! 1 month away! 2 days away! The day! The excitement builds intensely and progressively as the day nears. This time around was special though; Box Elders, openers for Jay Reatard at Harpers Ferry in October and favorites among Chris and I, were opening for the Lips! So we arrived at our favorite venue, the Middle East Downstairs, way before doors opened to secure a cozy spot in front of what would be Jared Swilley’s stage monitor. Doors at 8. Show at 9:30. We’re used to that. I always thought that was kind of lame, but not on this night. Chris spotted what he thought were the Box Elders hanging around the merchandise table at back. He was right. First, we killed a good deal of time chatting with Clayton, the long blonde hair guitar player and singer. Clayton explained to us, amongst many things, the meaning of a couple of songs like “Ronald Dean” and “2012.” Chris pointed out his particular admiration for “Atlantis” calling it his favorite and Clayton agreed with him on that account. He also said that his mother was NOT the drummer for Box Elders in the early stages. All she did was sing. The internet is wrong! After a short little break from discourse, we spoke to another member of the Box Elders, drummer Dave Goldberg. Our conversation with Dave was another great one and included a short discussion about Our Band Could Be Your Life and the late great Jay Reatard.

Movers and Shakers: Pretty boring. Some pretty good songs, but still pretty boring.

Box Elders: They are one of our favorites because they play brief and incredibly catchy ditties. They don’t fuck around. If the drum beats aren’t good enough for you, then you are a sad sad person. Dave has incredible command of his set and his left side organ, which doesn’t sound as apparent as it does on record, but is definitely pretty damn obvious and fun. As I’ve said before, just watching Dave do his aerobics and drumstick biting is a joy. Listening to the songs themselves, I felt, at the moment, as if Box Elders were the main act. The crowd certainly got more into Box Elders than pretty much all other openers I’ve ever seen. Whether they actually knew the songs is a different story, but whatever! They played all my favorites, which is pretty much every song on Alice & Friends. The most memorable song for me was “Hole in My Head” for no particular reason. “Atlantis” and “Jackie Wood” were just as entertaining as well. I’m just eagerly anticipating the next Box Elders show! Hopefully it will come sometime this year.

Black Lips: Chris and I were having some discourse after the show about watching the Black Lips from a non-moshing/standing view. I looked yesterday and somebody put up a video of a recent Lips Canadian show and had in the description that the boys are getting sloppy. Accusations of their alleged musical sloppiness have been tossed around for years, be it from Raconteurs fans or sidelined cinematographers. Screw all that garbage. You haven’t seen a Black Lips show until you’ve been in the center of crowd craziness. Great tunes and fun times. As customary, the guys opened with “Sea of Blasphemy” which instantly started up the chaos amongst fans. After that they played two tracks off their most recent release 200 Million Thousand, “Drugs” and “Short Fuse.” That was it for 200 Million Thousand cuts and nobody really seemed to give a shit, considering they toured behind that last year and played more numbers from that release at that time. They made up for not playing “Take My Heart” or “Starting Over” by performing B-Side “Make It” along with “Raw Meat” (which will be off their forthcoming release). As far as their 2004 We Did Not Know The Forest Spirit Made The Flowers Grow LP is concerned, they played “Stranger,” which I did not expect. Of course, they ended their set off with usual classic “Juvenile.” More on that in a few sentences. Magic time, another staple in Black Lips live performances, began with the playing of “Hippie Hippie Hoorah” and never really ended to be honest. It was all magic at that point. The band loves re-hashing Let It Bloom/Los Valienteles Del Mundo Nuevo classics and this night was no different with “Not a Problem” (my favorite Lips song!), “Take Me Home (Back to Boone)”, “Fairy Stories,” “Dirty Hands,” and “Buried Alive” all played. As far as Good Bad Not Evil is concerned, we got to enjoy a few really great pieces like “O Katrina,” “I Saw a Ghost (Lean),” “Lock and Key,” “Cold Hands,” and the Lips most recognizable track in catalog: “Bad Kids.” By the time the first chords of “Juvenile” were struck, I was sad! The Black Lips were potentially playing their last song until next time. I had memories of last year when Ian handed beers to us, Jared crowd surfed, and the worst: security getting all uppity and dismantling all equipment on stage at the end of “Juvenile,” before the band could even come back. Normally one to just hang back and watch others climb on stage or do whatever, I decided mid-song to pull myself on stage and jump off. I was expecting this song to be the band’s last (if last year was any indication) so why not? Well, security got really pissed and got me down from people’s hands. He walked me over to the exit, but instead I made a little turn to the merch table where who else but Dave from Box Elders was sitting! Dave kindly explained to security that I was with his band and that it won’t happen again. After sitting the rest of the song out, I made my way to the front as the Lips were coming out of the back room to play the Encore. And what an encore! We got surprised with “Ghetto Cross,” a We Did Not track which one can only expect to be a live rarity, as well as a brand new ditty. That was it. Side note: this was definitely one of the most exhausting and rough concert experiences I’ve had. The crowd was as tightly packed as can be and there was a tremendous amount of contact amongst all of us. That’s fine, though. We’re troopers.

Post-Show: Fun stuff didn’t end there. Chris got to chat with Cole and Joe after the encore and I got to hang with Dave behind the merch table. He said that that night was the best of the tour, performance wise and merch sales wise. He also hooked me up with a customized Black Lips t-shirt, personally painted and presented to me by Lips very own guitarist and vocalist, Cole Alexander. Cole’s the man. Dave’s the man. I’m very grateful of their showing of kindness to a random fan.

Grade: A+ – I’m not going to lie. I don’t remember much of Black Lips set and only fragments of Box Elders set. Nevertheless, I knew I had fun. I had a lot of fun…pre, during, post. Best concert experience? Definitely. There weren’t as many song memories as in past shows, but based on everything else it’s the best I’ve had.

Chris– Yep, Glen pretty much covers my sentiments. It was absolutely the greatest concert experience! To me, concerts are measured musically, viscerally, visually, and as an overall experience. I’d say the viscreal is the key ingredient in the memorable concert dish. That’s the difference between most seated concerts and “crazy” shows like the Black Lips. It’s like an altered state of consciousness, for me at least, for others this is literally the case! Seemingly, time is suspended and everything is possible. You feel more alive than ever. An amazing feeling. If you have experienced viscreally, what I am speaking of, and if you attended last Thursday’s show and was amongst the fun, wild, bedlam, then you know what I’m saying. I’m making no exaggeration, when I say, you do not know what will happen next. That’s exactly the appeal, and yeah sometimes it’s a challenge, sometimes you get thrown back and forth and lose your spot, or sometimes you can rest your head on a smokin’ femme :) I can’t imagine it any other way. And what better a band then the Black Lips to experience this visceral abandoment with?! In short, the Black Lips are synonimous with Rock and Roll today. They are our Beatles.

P.S. Box Elders rocked as well and if I had only seen them it would still probably be amongst my top ten favorite shows.

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