Meandering my way through the crumbling streets of Ybor on a Friday night is not something I would choose to do often. But on Mar. 23, I pushed my way through hundreds of club-goers nevertheless. My destination: the Orpheum. My purpose: to see the Black Lips.
The Orpehum is a small, dingy venue with shabby brick walls, cement floors and a solitary disco-ball hanging down in the center of a small room. If Astroskate and a 1980s rave were ever combined into one room, the Orpheum would be the product.
The Black Lips have been making music since the late 90s and coin themselves as “Flower Punk”, a mix between psychedelic 60s music and punk rock. Though a most of their music clings strongly to its punk roots, their newest album Arabian Mountains is more mainstream-friendly with a newer sound quality. “Family Tree” and “Modern Art,” the first two songs on the album, exemplify this new change in music but still keep their Ramones-esque retro vibes.
I usually try to keep my expectations low when going to concerts so I don’t end up disappointed, but I couldn’t help being a little excited as I waited for the Black Lips to perform. I have heard a lot about their stage performances: stripping, vomiting and urinating on stage, and a guitar solo played with one band member’s genitals — just total chaos. So I was obviously expecting some theatrics along these lines.
The People’s Temple, a garage punk band that has been around since 2007, was the opening band. They sound somewhat similar to the Black Lips but lean towards more muffled folk-like undertones whereas the Black Lips have a strong punk core. They played about an hour-long set which consisted of about ten songs, and even though I’m not really a fan of their music, I really enjoyed watching them live.
The event was hosted by the Tampa Skate Park, which was celebrating Tampa Pro 2012 that weekend. Tampa Pro is an annual skateboarding competition held at the Tampa Skate Park in order to celebrate and promote skating. Therefore, a majority of the audience was made up of individuals who had come for the event rather than the Black Lips themselves. Though I wouldn’t necessarily say this made the crowd subdued, there wasn’t nearly as much energy as there usually is at a Black Lips show.
Though the Black Lips gave a good performance, I was kind of disappointed. They played a normal set, about an hour long, and played a mixture of favorites and new songs. Older favorites such as “Cold Hands” and “Bad Kids” were played along with tracks from Arabian Mountains.
For any other band, I would say it was an above average performance, but for the Black Lips, it was subpar. The vocals and sound quality were better than I expected, but one doesn’t go to a Black Lips concert to hear high audio quality.
The show was tame and maybe a little restrained due to the fact that the band was representing the skate park, though I feel like raucous showmanship would have been even more encouraged.
I must admit that my hair did catch on fire a little bit when Lan (lead guitarist) started shooting firecrackers around on stage and I did leave dripping in beer, which is inevitable at a Black Lips show, but I still felt like the show was lacking — they didn’t even come back on for an encore! Overall it was a normal show with normal music and normal people, though I can say the good thing about the Black Lips is that they are very approachable people. They will just stand around with a beer in hand and talk to whoever is around. A lot of bands nowadays will hide out back stage until the show starts and then quickly scuttle back there when it’s over, and maybe come out to sign a few autographs, but that’s it. So next time I see the Black Lips I’ll make sure to let them know that the audience appreciates and expects nothing less than the nakedness, vomiting and urination that have now become the trademarks of their shows.