Everyone knows the buzzing feeling that comes just before a truly awesome show, when the air becomes frightfully electric and it’s as if a certain click or slight bump could throw the world spinning into oblivion. On Friday, October 16, the audience lost their minds at SOhO for the truly awesome performance of the punk rockers Black Lips, and indie idol Ariel Pink.
The anticipatory tension was nerve racking, the line for the show was out the door, and the patio and bar were packed with patrons ready to go completely wild. Black Lips took the stage first and immediately threw themselves into a classic flower punk number, “Family Tree.” The crowd swayed calmly and didn’t dance for the first minute, but then, as if they were covered in gasoline and someone had lit a match, they began a great big mosh pit that took up the majority of the SOhO dance floor. The pit grew as the Lips went into songs like “Raw Meat,” a song clearly influenced by the Ramones, and their popular and more complex singles like “Modern Art.”
Vocalist-guitarist Cole Alexander didn’t seem phased by the raging pit, and instead grabbed the mic and said, “Make sure to pick each other up if you’re falling down, we don’t want anyone to get hurt,” grinning at the evil dancing. Girls and boys alike leapt the pit, and I only saw one person receive a bloody nose. The band ended the set with the punk anthems that defined the lips, “Oh Katrina!” and “Bad Kids,” and the audience screamed along. — RM
Though the crowd thinned a bit, the energy did not when Ariel Pink and his Haunted Graffiti followed the Black Lips’ set. The set was a fan-favorites mix of perky hits from his newest Pom Pom, as well as a few of the more rocking numbers the beloved House Arrest and Before Today; the sludgy and psychedelic songs of Mature Themes featured prominently. The band stirred the mosh pit with rockers like “Bright Lit Blue Skies,” “White Freckles,” and the psychedelic freak-out of “Getting High In The Morning.” Balancing murk with proficiency, the band pulled the technical feat of evoking Pink’s studio obscurity while still sounding clear. Bassist Tim Koh deserves much credit for holding down the fort with his anchoring grooves. For fans and neophytes, it was an excellent show.
Having seen the infamously inconsistent band through numerous iterations over the years, this was one of the better Ariel Pink shows registered by this reviewer’s eyes and ears. The band seems to have reached a good balance point between structural confidence, haunting atmospherics, and wild-eyed craziness. As things bumped and bounced away to the neon shadow grooves of the Thriller-like “Black Ballerina,” it’s clear that this Haunted Graffiti plays with love – devotion to the material and with respect to Pink’s genius.
As the crowd downsized over the evening, one couldn’t help but feel a tinge of sorrow at the sight of a singer, who, even now at the height of his powers, may never be fully recognized for the breadth of his creativity or the depth of his art; and one wonders to what extent the music itself resists listeners. But no matter universality – this is music for the select few. And for someone who marches to the beat of his own drum, as they say, he sure knows how to get a whole lot of people dancing and marching in sync. – RD