Black Lips at the Variety Playhouse, Atlanta, GA

Black Lips at the Variety Playhouse, Atlanta, GA
Black Lips at the Variety Playhouse, Atlanta, GA, November 28, 2010. Photo by Jeff Pearson.
Originally published by Life’s Sweet Breath

“Are we done? I guess we’re done.” This was the last a rabid crowd of Black Lips fans heard from singer/guitarist Cole Alexander, crackling through a broken microphone and beer-soaked speakers. Saturday night in Atlanta, hometown favorites Black Lips took the Variety Playhouse by storm.

The band ripped through a short set of new songs off of their upcoming album, mixed in with crowd pleasers, including “Bad Kids”, “Dirty Hands”, and “Drugs”. The crowd was brimming with excitement from the second the curtain separated to reveal the band until the last feedback drone. Fans were in a constant power struggle with the Variety Playhouse security, crowd-surfing on and off the stage, and generally having fun, which doesn’t seem to be tolerated.

During the middle of “Hippie, Hippie Hoorah”, a standout track from 2005’s Let It Bloom, one fan made it onstage, and made a connection with Jared Swilley through his bass guitar. She was on her knees with her back arched as Swilley delivered frenetic dissonance during one of the song’s breakdowns, before exploding back into the final verse. She wasn’t the only rowdy fan to share some stage time with the Black Lips, however.

The set closer, “Notown Blues”, from the 2004 album We Did Not Know The Forest Spirit Made The Flowers Grow, was an unspoken invitation from the band for the crowd to invade the stage for one last battle with security. By the end of the raucous extended version of the tune, somewhere around twenty fans had made it onstage. Many were clinging to a band member or security guard, as the Black Lips somehow kept the music under control (whether that’s the correct term remains to be seen.) After smashing his bass on the stage and taking a leap of his own into the crowd, Swilley could be seen trying to shake a security guard, before saying “I’m in the band!” and promptly making his exit with the rest of the ‘Lips.

Not long after the stage was finally cleared of fans did Alexander return to tap on a microphone, which no longer worked, shrug to the sound guy off stage, and tell the crowd through a separate, effect-laden microphone that the band was done. It was an abrupt end to a tremendously rowdy concert, yet somehow the general feeling throughout the venue seemed to be not one of disappointment, but one of fulfillment. Everyone got exactly what they wanted.

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