Black Lips @ Turner Hall Ballroom
March 15, 2009
The Black Lips are one band that will never be accused of putting on a yawner. The Atlantans pretty much guarantee it: If their discordant sort of lo-fi garage psychedelia threatens to lose an audience, even for a second, they're going to do everything they possibly can to get a reaction.
But it seems that Milwaukee and the Black Lips are so familiar with each other by now that they've passed the point of trying to create frenzied shock reactions. Milwaukee has followed the band from basements to the Hi-Fi Café to the stage of Mad Planet and finally to the vastness of the Turner Hall Ballroom last year. Sunday's concert evoked plenty of déjŕ vu from the band's first performance at the ballroom, nearly a year ago to the day.
Guitarist Cole Alexander's pilgrim's hat and poncho hinted at possible mayhem even before their set began, while bassist Jared Swilley remained straight-faced as the band introduced the new material from 200 Million Thousand. The lights lowered and the band incited a reaction with the trippy psychedelic washout of "Hippie Hippie Hoorah," as a blinding projection of floating paisley-like amoebas covered the band, the crowd casting shadow puppets over the group as they nonchalantly swung their guitars.
A few PBR tallboys swung onstage sprayed over the Black Lips and their gear, but the band remained unblinking as the crowd generated more and more energy, pressing the Black Lips to display their trademark shenanigans. "No, I will not piss on you," Swilley announced to a taunting crowd member, as he launched into the reverb-laden, heartthrob ode, "I'll Be With You." The band, perhaps used to harassment, perhaps wary of the heavy eyes of the Turner Hall security, kept the antics coolly subtle as the crowd jumped and head-bobbed enthusiastically. Already having won their audience's affection, they sauntered off the stage, only to return seconds later to show their love to Milwaukee by turning out two closers: one, a scorching hot cover of the Velvet Underground's "Run Run Run" so seamless to their own music that one almost believed that the Black Lips had penned it themselves.