Words by Farrah Skeiky, photos by Christopher Chen
Belligerence is not to be planned, not to be set up. Premeditated belligerence is a marketing tool aimed at teenagers– but maybe we shouldn’t go there when talking about a band that has two cell phone commercials.
Belligerence is a decision you make as it happens. When Black Lips pick up their instruments and go on the offensive, they don’t have to try to be belligerent, that’s just the music they make. And it’s the attitude they inspire. If you were standing still at this show– why? There were lots of rooms in DC you could have done that in. This was not it.
Belligerence isn’t always as straightforward as abandoning manners and shoving your friends around in the pit. Sometimes it comes in the form of being the last thing people expect you to be, like Natural Child. They surprised the room as they transitioned from twangy sing-alongs to much heavier 80s guitar-laden passages, all delivered with a good dose of southern crooning and general brashness. Their latest tracks somehow came together to create the most polished album they’ve got to date where the 70s are alive and well. You wouldn’t be able to tell that Natural Child had only recently adopted a family-band style of playing because they ease into it so comfortably.
Black Lips and Natural Child fit perfectly in this bill. Both are southern bands, and one thrives in country playing styles and themes while the other has just enough of that influence for it to be noticeable. The latter, Black Lips, were less polished and more aggressive on stage. They graced every song they played with the effort it deserved, instead of saving the “good stuff” for the two songs everyone in the room knew from different commercials. The emotions evoked were that of, “I don’t care if I look like an idiot, I don’t care if I step on your foot. I’m having the time of your life with my friends.” This was true in the pit, it was true of everyone right on the edge of the pit flailing and jumping and generally dancing like Muppets.
If you only knew songs out of commercials and TV shows (“We have two commercials but we’re not on the radio, what’s up with that?” was asked at one point), you should have felt foolish. Off of the latest album Underneath the Rainbow, Dog Years and I Don’t Wanna Go Home and Boys in the Wood outshined the rest. But the performance that perfectly encapsulated the whole night was a cover of T.Rex’s Bang a Gong. Cole was forgetting words (as they were just learning the song), but no one seemed to mind– the attempt wasn’t half-assed or incomplete. It was rousing and delivered true to Black Lips form– much faster, much louder, much more compelling to dance to.
The night ended with many chants of “We’re the kids in America!” that rose from one corner of the room and followed energized fans outside. It didn’t feel cliche, it just felt true. Adults in that room felt like kids again, and twenty-somethings felt like high-schoolers. This set had inspired memories of cutting loose without considering the consequences, and what it felt like to yell until you finally felt better. Except for this time, there were no negative consequences and no one to hurt with your temper tantrum. It was possibly the most goodhearted display of belligerence I’ve ever seen.