Cerebral Ballzy And Black Lips Play Shank
It was as if Black Lips and Cerebral Ballzy themselves had commissioned the shoddy reconditioning of Shank — for all intents and purposes a broke down warehouse in New York's Williamsburg neighborhood (where else?) which played host to their semi-maniacal performances on Saturday.
The term ‘venue’ should be used liberally in application to a night spot such as this, and for those who bothered to dig but a scratch below the surface would realize that the legality of its presence is as questionable as the building’s construction. But this is not the first ramshackle structure which has played host to Shank as it has already been resituated thanks to those pesky regulations preventing multi-million dollar lawsuits and such. Thus a move was necessitated from its original home nearer McCarran Park to its new location, which I will not reveal for fear of further legal ramifications.
On the surface $5 may seem like cheap admission to see a couple reasonably high-profile bands, but reasons for this quickly become apparent. A cable-tie on your wrist advises the no doubt untrained door staff that you’ve paid, a grand total of two porta-potties service the needs of 400 or so people, and a confused dude sporting an admittedly great beard sort of serves you drinks. Perhaps most unsettling in this tale of mismanagement however is the complete lack of any sort of air conditioning, ergo a horde of new age punks sweating as if it were some sort of race emulate a Turkish bath. This aside, there’s really no problem with the place aside except for a P.A system which I’m 96% sure was made by Fisher-Price.
Cerebral Ballzy sure came flying the cacophonous thrash-punk flag as high as possible, transforming an already well-lubricated crowd into a lurching mass with their riotous odes to skateboarding that Tony Alva himself would undoubtedly covet. Songs like “Insufficient Fare” and their omnipresent flare for scrappy energy make their Brooklynite stock all too easy to spot, but impossible to resist. Homages to rolling around on a battered deck in a pair of wrecked shoes on “Sk8 All Day” also stirred some pleasantly youthful memories, and if their point wasn’t clear enough to you, then a band member marching into the crowd with a 6-foot crucifix made of skateboard decks left no doubt as to what they were about.
Admittedly, I managed to steal myself from scaling the none-too-sturdy looking speaker system and launching headlong into the frenzy below, though others just couldn’t resist in spite of their inherent lack of formal high-dive training – and really who could blame them when they’re listening to “Causing Havoc,” a minute-and-a-half long shellacking of the senses, with the vocals every bit as inaudible as on record. I’m not sure whether it was the enthusiasm instilled by these guys or the fact that the place resembled the inside of a clay oven, but I also found myself all but bumping into several topless girls in the midst of their set. Ugh, I’m betting that doesn’t happen at the Palace Theatre all that often.
With some stage management skills that would be comfortably at home on the set of This Is Spinal Tap (1984), people whom I assume were part of the promotion dragged bits of battered equipment onstage in preparation for Atlanta’s moustachioed hipster stalwarts, Black Lips. Now it’s no real secret that this was a band elevated to the level of scene-garage sweetheart-dom by Vice Magazine, as the publication’s own record label had a stake in their success. This manifested itself in an almost constant barrage of coverage on the four-piece over the course of several years, to great effect in evidence at the show. What is debatable however is whether this band really held up as being all that good in the first place.
They rattled out a set which lasted an indeterminate amount of time in copyrightable Black Lips fashion, and save for the more recognizable bro-along garage blasts of “Bad Kids” and “O Katrina” on which the job of vocalizing was passed around like a live grenade, each song blurring into the next. Fun though they may be, lazy stage invasions and t-shirtless twenty-somethings did little to elevate this to anywhere near the fun that Ballzy brought to the table, plus Black Lips as a band name isn’t even close to being as good.
Once famed for their debauched-yet-contrived live shows punctuated by urinating on crowds and generally being too intoxicated to play, it seems Black Lips have become a victim of their desire to shirk most of this silliness but none of their determination for playing badly.