KISSIN’ WITH THE BLACK LIPS
“It’s going to be a kraut rock show tonight”, says Cole, glancing down at his half-pound $1.50 kraut dog (my personal favorite, and a pretty disgusting Las Vegas attraction, courtesy of the Gold Spike casino). Having been jaded by circus upbringing and a city habitat made 90% out of neon, surrealism for me ended up being the awkward sitting at a greasy casino diner booth with three of the Black Lips, The Dirtbombs’ Ko, and their roadie Randy (dreamboat alert!) making sauerkraut puns.
I rarely attend shows (or anything, for that matter.) The local scene is lacking, bands never pass through Las Vegas, and the all ages venues (a term I use loosely as these “venues” mostly double as juice bars), or coffee houses, or carpeted rooms behind Family Music, are nearly non-existent. I’ve also come to find that crowds have a tendency to aggravate my already mangled nerves. I tried to see The White Stripes once, age 12, and after preparing for months, arrived shaken and nervous to such an extent that I spent the night puking bile and fending of the surprising (or the not so surprising, considering the childlike shtick much relied on by the White Stripes) on-flow of Fedora clad child molesters, both physically and verbally pawing up my red and white skirt.
A year later it was The Cramps, no vomiting, and a good time, but all compromised by the last few minutes of vaguely indecent exposure by the well aged Lux Interior, witnessed by both the enthralled me and my horrified mom, who although relayed the event as a humorous anecdote at cocktail parties and friendly dinners (“—and then he just took off his pants! Completely off!”), grew wary of any future bands I would want to see.
But this was The Black Lips, and like a Christian church pamphlet warning teens of the dangers of rock n’ roll, a band I would’ve sold my soul to see. They were playing The Celebrity Room (“the sink”, as it’s most commonly referred to by assholes: I have no idea why); an 18+ venue located a two-minute walk from Fremont St., a five-minute walk from my high school, and exactly the sort of place you’d expect from my fair city. “One of the weirdest places we’ve ever played”, Jared told me upon unloading the van. It was a red-tinted room with multicolored walls, with Bob Marley concert footage projected onto them, and a good scattering of tables taking up most of the floor space, complete with a neon green sign on the roof advertising “Smokin’ good times!”
I was excited. Embarrassingly excited. About two steps above making Tiger Beat collages and fantasizing about what their hair smelled like (two steps above, but if I had to guess: dirt.) That school day was reminiscent of an Amish family sending their daughter into the city, the handful of friends who actually listened to my mixtapes and absorbed my awesome brought me money for merchandise and a camcorder to tape The Black Lips and The Dirtbombs sets. “You look like a 3rd grader”, my mom commented on my attire as I came downstairs, one of my abundant striped shirts and a pleated black skirt. “Couldn’t you at least put on something clean?” Nope.
I arrived early and eager, picking at a scrape on my arm in tempo to The 13th Floor Elevators and tapping my foot like I was hiding dead bodies. I saw the van pull in at the back entrance, and kissing my equally nerve-wracked mom goodbye, followed suit. Helping unload what I could with my limited strength, I caught the end of the Dirtbombs soundcheck and settled on a black couch backstage that made me feel smaller than I was. The dressing room was very reminiscent of the kinds of places I would watch my parents get ready in: narrow with bright-lit mirrors and complimentary refreshments set out. In this case, plastic tubs of beer and a basket of apples. “The place in LA called and asked us what kind of beer we wanted”, Joe comments, opening a bottle, and in a flash I realize I should get on starting a band, if for no other reason than the probability of free beer.
After I am wristbanded, and the first band takes the stage (local, irrelevant, terrible) we slip out, sans Ian, but with Randy and Ko, in search of hot dogs and nickel slots. A stroke of luck on Randy’s first quarter lands him with 400 more, and I circle the casino watching them alternate machines and air punch at petty wins. We end up on the perpetually fluorescent Fremont St., in a casino like every other casino, maybe the Lady Luck but who gives a shit really, watching Joe and Cole race from machine to machine without any real method or grasp of their financial balance. Disregarding my “CASH OUT!”s proved to their benefit, however, and Joe returned backstage boasting a win of $300.
“We beat Vegas!” he proclaimed while opening another beer. I sunk down beside Ben Blackwell, only to find myself interrogated in an ambiguously threatening fashion shortly thereafter. (“I’m not interrogating, we’re conversing. You’re sitting over here all quiet with nobody talking ‘cause they’re scared they’ll get arrested or something.”) Fumbling with fear-shaken thoughts and haphazard sentences, I responded by mumbling into my forearms like a fangirl while ripping the adhesive off my wristband. He eventually eased, told me to pick up a split 7” and promised to mail me records (the once Motor City fixated Dasha of yesteryear still ingrained in my person giving a little joy twitch.) then turning to contribute to a conversation I wasn’t really following, “Do you guys know what snoodling is?” Snoodling is the apparently commonly utilized, but seemingly painful and fantastical practice of easing a foreskin over the uncircumsized head of another penis as means of dual masturbation. Teamwork and shit. My mind was blown.
As the second band, just as local and irrelevant as the first, maybe they were called Jupiter Shifter (“Oh man, they move planets!”) but who gives a shit really, finished up, I excused myself out into the crowd to pick up some 7”s and watch the Black Lips set up. Past midnight, with my mom’s antsy phone calls only growing more constant, Randy talked her into letting me stay for the only real reason I had come, and I slid up behind Ko at the side of the stage. A few more people crowded around, and I resented those who stayed seated. As they began playing, I caught myself beaming under the lava lighting, contemplating the consequences of leaving school and following them to their next show in LA.
Shouting along to words I didn’t know and couldn’t distinguish, my borrowed camcorder smashing into my hip as a reminder of the documentation promises I had made, but there was no way I could cease stomping long enough to catch a steady shot. The set lasted about half an hour, mostly tracks off Let It Bloom (including an unexpected “Dirty Hands” and my favorite “Not A Problem”), with a few off the second LP, as well as “Freakout”, the order of which escapes me now, but the rowdy deliverance does not. Taking full advantage of the venues cabaret license, Cole finished off the set with a charming cock solo, one that resulted in an all too wide grin on my part. Even without the consideration of their much anticipated antics, the Black Lips hit down deep with bouncy disposition, the compounded worry and confrontations with my own nerdiness all worthwhile for those 30 riotous minutes. I dragged home around 1:00 AM a changed woman(ish), confused in my own inebriated bliss, sure of only my newly strengthened, and parentally frightening dedication to rock n’ roll.
Contact Dasha: darucy-at-hotmail.com
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dasha van dasha
1705 Estrella St.
Las Vegas, NV, 89117
To read past installments of I Was A Teenage Malcontent go here.
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