Punk is not dead. It lives in Atlanta. And the proof was right there at The Black Lips show, where any and all sense of social order was buried under a blanket of sweaty crowd surfing teenagers. The Observatory in Orange County was humid and hardly civil last week when the dirty south punks ended their Southern California stint in support of Ariel Pink, which had kicked off when guitarist Cole Alexander puked on stage at the Teragram Ballroom.
But on this early autumn night, Orange County was cracked open and drained by jams from “Sea of Blasphemy” and “Family Tree.” Thick steam hovered over the pit and was cut open by flailing teenage limbs. Songs from “Underneath the Rainbow,” “Arabia Mountain,” “Good Bad Not Evil,” “Let it Bloom,” “We Did Not Know the Forest Spirit Made the Flowers Grow,” and their earliest self titled album jangled through the southern drawl of their signature soul blues swamp punk slime sermon.
Bodies remained airborne among streaming rolls of toilet paper up to the ceremonious final tune “Bad Kids.” At this point full cans of beer were being thrown from the balcony into the pit. The ice buckets behind the bar were raided and showered onto the gyrating vortex the dance floor had become when some kind of water pipe in the ceiling burst and rained down on the crowd.
It was all fucking perfect. After the set I stepped out to find some air that wasn’t 80 percent sweat and passed a few sloppy makeout sessions when I saw a grown man passed out pissing his pants.
This show was reinforcement: The Black Lips are vital to culture. Not because it’s fun to get nailed in the head by a tall can of Budweiser, but because they are living, breathing, explosive proof that music is more than social media followers and campaigning for a Grammy. Punk lives in the minds of those who aren’t afraid to write songs about putting your phone in your crotch and setting it on vibrate, among those minds are these swamp monsters from Atlanta. Thanks for bringing the swamp and remindig us what lives in it.—David Evanko