The following is an essay I wrote for my Essay Writing course. This is the first draft, but this is how I intended to tell the story. I may or may not post the final draft. Enjoy!
Sea of Blasphemy
Annually, my comrades and I look forward to seeing our favorite band, the Black Lips! when they come to town. This year was no exception, well except it was. One of our other favorite bands, the Box Elders would be opening. As a fairly frequent concertgoer (roughly twenty or more shows a year), whenever two or more of my favorite bands are on the same bill, this usually translates into a phenomenal show, one deeply etched into my music loving heart. On March 25, 2010, the Black Lips and the Box Elders did just that and then some!
The Black Lips! represent everything great about Rock and Roll, Punk, and music itself. They satisfy all the tastes one looks for in the greatest rock band: catchy songs, excellent showmanship, unmatched integrity, unique character, and best of all, an unflinching ode to youth rebellion. Though, there is far more to the Black Lips! craft than the bedlam they are known for, it is worth noting that their shows are notorious for wild, anarchic behavior such as vomiting, urination, nudity, amongst other havoc inducing shenanigans. As an enormous fan of anti-authoritarian art, I naturally found this quite appealing. My buddies, my fellow devotees of obscure Punk Rock, and I are so dedicated to following music (particularly of the underground variety, with the Black Lips! high above all) that we started our own subversive blog entitled, Kids Like You and Me or KLYAM (pronounced clam, go figure). The moniker derives its name from the lyrics to one of our most beloved Black Lips tunes, “Bad Kids.” The line goes “Bad kids ain’t no college grad kids. Livin’ life out on the skids. Kids like you and me.” Though the lyrics do not directly relate to us, we have kind of made it our own. Only a band like the Black Lips and their amazing shows can have such a life altering effect on a young, frustrated man, boy- boyman, such as myself.
I have heard some folks describe special shows as religious experiences; for Black Lips fans, seeing these Flower Punkers’ live is the equivalent of journeying to Mecca for Muslims. Okay, maybe a bit of an exaggeration, but if you look at the audience at their shows, you might think differently. For the Klaymers (what we call those who contribute to the aforementioned blog), waiting months for a Black Lips! show is as painful as Guantanamo Bay torture. The anticipation just keeps building and building. Three months. One Month. Two Weeks. One Week. One Day. The Show! And when that glorious day finally arrives, words cannot describe how ecstatic I am.
As 6:30 P.M. rolls around, my pal Travis (the guy that introduced me to the band) picks me up and we hit the road. Naturally, when we arrive at the Middle East in Cambridge we are there way too early and the doors have yet to open. More waiting! As if, months of anticipation was not enough. Finally, the doors open and of course no one is there. Typical. My amigos and I like to be the first there and secure our cozy spot in front of what would become bassist Jared Swilley’s stage monitor. To kill time, we waltz over to the merchandise table. Whilst taking a gander at the various vinyls, CDs, seven inches, cassettes, t-shirts, and pins, I spot a long blonde haired hippie looking dude, which looks a lot like Clayton McIntyre, singer/guitarist for the Box Elders, one of my top ten favorite bands and the second group on the bill. Wait a second, yes it is Clayton! “Hey Clayton, I really dug Alice and Friends, I thought it was one of the best records of 2009,” I yelp. He smiles and appreciates the accolades. I inform him that “Atlantis,” is my favorite Box Elders song and he agrees, saying it is his favorite too. Then I notice drummer/keyboardist, Dave Goldberg beside him. I keep my cool and inform the man of my admiration for his band: “When I saw you guys open for Jay Reatard, a few months back, I experienced something I have never felt before with any band, I found myself immediately singing along to the songs, even though I had never heard them before.” Dave graciously accepts my compliments and various music driven conversations ensue. I am struck by what Dave tells me about his lifestyle, how little they make and yet how little that seems to matter in the grand scheme of things. The man seems driven to succeed or more apropos not fall back. Explaining his outlook, he cites a Butthole Surfers’ quote from the book, Our Band Could Be Your Life, but he cannot think of the title, until I tell him. And after name dropping some early Buttholes’ LPs, he claims “Shit, you’re very well-versed.” I get that a lot, but coming from one of my favorite musicians means far more.
After the chit chat, the show finally begins with the band, Movers and Shakers. Alas, they neither move nor shake me. No worries, up next was the Box Elders! and as soon as they start their set the crowd is more than moving and shaking. They play all their essential, brief, but incredibly catchy ditties. Not to mention the fact that the BE on stage are a sight to be seen. Specifically, one cannot forget the antics of Dave as he simultaneously commands the drum kit and plays the keys, and then occasionally makes aerobic movements, when he has a hand free. The highlight of the performance for me is when Clayton introduces my favorite, “Atlantis,” as “here’s a song this kid will like,” with his finger pointing to me at the front of the stage. Without a doubt, one of the best opening bands I have ever seen; it would have been one of my favorite concerts if the show had ended here.
Now, was the time I have been waiting for all year, like waking up on Christmas morning times a thousand and it still does not scratch the surface. The place is packed, sold out and we are ready to go! The entire crowd initiates the universal chanting “ohhhhhhhhhhhh” that opens every Black Lips! show. It is not as exciting on paper, kind of akin to the wave ( but way cooler), you cannot describe it to someone, it simply will not have the same effect as if you are present. But, as the chant builds and builds, you can feel the rowdy audience members on your back as you discover there is no place to breath and you are in a sea of drunkards, stoners, and possibly the insane. Then you realize you are amongst this sea of wild men and women and anything seems possible. The Lips- Cole, Jared, Ian, and Joe hit the stage and launch into “Sea of Blasphemy,” immediately chaos ensues: beers, saliva, and bodies a flyin, you never stay still for the entire show. In fact, you have to hold onto the people around you or the monitors in order to stand up and not die. The Black Lips are an attack on all the senses. Whilst the loud, noisy wall of music wipes out what is left of my hearing, I can taste the hair of various femmes getting caught in my mouth and I can smell some puke, blood, and certainly, unbelievable amounts of sweat. It is like I dove into a pool of sweat and I am saturated in it. Everyone is sticking to each other, when they are not crushing themselves in undeniably euphoric moshpits. Meanwhile on stage, the pandemonium is duplicated as the boys hop and bop around as energetic and crazy as ever. Singer/guitarist, Cole Alexander, ever the charmer, hawks a giant loogie in the air and then catches it in his mouth. He proceeds to make out with lead guitarist, Ian St. Pe. Much more of this “entertainment” continues as they play classic after classic from all over their discography. The evening culminates with their signature closer, “Juvenile,” in which many patrons rush the stage and dive off, just barely escaping the clutches of uppity, conservative security.
All in all this is easily one of the greatest experiences of my life. Concerts are measured musically, viscerally, visually, and as an overall experience. I would say the visceral is the key ingredient in the memorable concert dish. That is the difference between most concerts and “crazy” shows like the Black Lips. It is 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 viscerally, what I am speaking of, and if you attend one of their shows and are amongst the fun, wild, tornado in front of the stage, then you know what I am saying. I am making no exaggeration, when I say, you do not know what will happen next. I cannot imagine it any other way. And what better a band then the Black Lips to experience this visceral abandonment with?! This all sort of hits me while I am wandering around, practically tripping over the empty beer cans and beer bottles covering the floor. Extremely tired and ready to pass out, I decide to sit on the stage and wait to see my friends, in my dirty, sweat and beer drenched Jay Reatard shirt. “Hey, that’s a cool Jay Reatard shirt,” I hear a voice say. Looking up, I discover it is none other than Cole Alexander. There are about a thousand things I want to ask him, but at the time I can only muster a few sentences about how inspiring his music is to my life. I am sure he gets that all the time, but I truly mean it. Looking back, I think the lyrics to the Lips’ anthem “Drugs,” articulate my sentiments best, ” We’ll laugh about this tomorrow.
It’s times like this I hope we’ll follow me. I hope they follow me. I hope they follow me. oh oh I hope they follow me.”
Not from the Boston show! lol