REVIEW: Black Lips with Surfbort at Brighton Music Hall (5/8)

On May 8, Atlanta garage rock legends the Black Lips played at Brighton Music Hall, just three days after releasing their eighth studio album, Satan’s Graffiti or God’s Art? Produced by Sean Lennon and starring his mother, Yoko Ono, on the opening track, SGOGA proves that the Black Lips still have some tricks up their sleeve. In addition to the band’s new producer and collaborator, other changes to the Black Lips include adding full-time saxophonist Zumi Rosow to the lineup, the return of guitarist Jack Hines, and the debut of drummer Oakley Munson.

Opening for the Black Lips was Surfbort, a four piece punk band from New York. Hopping on stage around 8:15pm, Surfbort immediately dived into a loud and lightning paced 30 minute set, playing songs including “Trash,” and one about, “waking up and being like, where’s all my shit?” Throughout the performance, Sean Powell fueled the crowd with his relentless drumming, and guitarist Alex Kilgore thrashed along the stage–––but the star of the show was vocalist Dani Miller.

From the moment she stepped up to the microphone, Miller filled the room with her massive stage presence, flashing the audience with her toothy grin in between powerful bursts of singing. After several songs, Miller flashed the crowd again, this time peeling off her red and white striped Coca-Cola dress and stripping down to her underwear, a cropped Mr. Music tee, and a pair of combat boots. Miller’s antics continued throughout the set, as she later jumped over the metal barricade and into the mosh pit, dragging her microphone cord behind her to sing and dance among the crowd. After the song had ended, Miller returned to the stage, taking a swig of her Budweiser before venturing back into pit once more to end the show.

By the end of Surfbort’s performance, the venue had come alive. The oversized mosh pit swarmed with punks garbed in studded leather and patch covered denim, and the floor was beginning to pile up with empty PBRs. The Clash played over the speakers while the roadies checked the instruments and microphones, cranking them all way up.

The Black Lips appeared around 9:30pm, strutting on stage to entry music straight out of a spaghetti-western and waving to the crowd as they kicked things off with “Sea of Blasphemy” followed by “Family Tree.” Two songs is all it took for the band to top Miller’s strip routine, as vocalist and rhythm guitarist Cole Alexander dropped his baggy pants to his knees, showing it all as Rosow blew her saxophone between his legs. About halfway through the set, they slowed things down, asking, “who here likes country music in Boston?” followed by twangy porch-rocker jam “Drive By Buddy.” But this moment of relief didn’t last long, as Munson pounded on his drums and the band launched into one of their rowdiest and best known songs, “Katrina.”

Drenched in green light, the Black Lips shook and sweat all night. One of the most active members of the band was Hines, striking power stances and teetering on the edge of the stage, while vocalist and bass player Jared Swilley rocked back and forth with the microphone stand. Following a rocking performance of “Boomerang,” Swilley desperately searched for a drink, gulping down the remainder of his coffee cup, chugging the last sip of his beer, and cracking open a fresh bottle. With his thirst seemingly quenched, Swilley charged into “Stone Cold,” leading the band in a boot stomping performance of the last song on their setlist. When the song was over Alexander began to wrap things up, but after some confused murmuring the Black Lips played a few more including “Noc-A-Homa” and “Raw Meat” to conclude the set.

A minute passed after the band walked off stage, then another. And just when it seemed like there would be no encore, Munson sat back down behind his drums for one more song, with the rest of the band trailing behind him. The Black Lips ended with soulful hoedown jam “Bow Down and Die,” taming what had been a wild and unruly mosh pit just minutes before into to calm and easy going square dance floor as they tapped their feet and slapped their hips. But as the band put down their instruments and waved goodnight, Swilley breathed some fire back into the room, thrusting his arm forward and flipping off the crowd in full punk spirit.

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