The Spits + The Black Lips = …spittle?: By J. Federico

Nov 19, 2007

Monday night I was feeling a bit tired from the previous night’s activities, but I pulled myself together to go to the Spits / Black Lips show at Great American Music Hall on O’Farrell Street in San Francisco’s Tenderloin. 

I love a weird punk show in some kind of classy building. I have been to my share of shows in complete shit holes, and that’s totally fine, but for some reason it really tickles me when punk bands play in beautiful places. GreatAmericanMusic Hall ( is just such a place. According to their website, they opened in 1907, and apparently used to be not only a restaurant and club, but a bordello. The inside is really gorgeous and fancy, with marble columns, ornamental balconies and lavish ceiling frescoes. They put on a pretty wide range of interesting “alternative” shows there.

The Spits / Black Lips show was reasonably crowded. Girls were dressed to the hilt, with heavy eyeliner, short skirts, fishnets, glitter, and high heeled boots or pumps. The Spits came on and people got excited. There was a mild surge to the front. It was hard for me to determine whether most people had gone to the show for them or for the Black Lips. Maybe it was both!

When I hear the Spits ( it makes me think of the Ramones waving at all of us from outer space (You thought I was going to say heaven! Nope.). It makes me think that they must have played in the sandbox with Man or Astroman? when they were young, then later gone skating in an empty pool outside Dracula’s haunted castle. It’s that kind of music. I like them, and I have fun listening to and watching them; however, even so, for me after awhile they begin to sound a little monotonous. I’m sure Spits fans would be mad at me for saying that, but there you have it. I think it has to do with their love of the high hat. Not being a drummer myself, I couldn’t tell if the drummer was really good for being so solid and steady, or maybe kind of uninspired. Regardless, it kinda made me wish for a drum solo a little. Well, not really. But maybe just something to mix it up a bit. All that said, I’d still be pretty happy listening to the Spits for extended periods of time. I don’t find that I ever don’t like them; I just sometimes lose interest a little.

However, as I said, people were excited about them, and that makes me happy. A good feeling from the crowd can make quite a difference at a show I think. The brothers (Sean and Erin, on guitar and bass, respectively) got in a (verbal) fight onstage once but carried on, then got in another (verbal) fight later after which they stopped in the middle of the song and stormed offstage (not sure who stormed first). It was funny! After a couple of minutes and some encouraging chanting from the crowd, they came back, with one of them noting how brothers sometimes fight, and started the song over. Spits drama!

Also, the keyboardist was wearing a giant space suit.

In between sets some great funk music was played and I got myself a second beer. I am a serious lightweight. I begin getting excited about the Black Lips ( I’d seen them once before at a smaller space in the city and had a great time. There was a lot of dancing and sweating. I like that! I wasn’t sure if I could expect the same at Great American, as it is a much bigger and different kind of venue, but it turned out to be lots of fun.

I suppose they played about an hour and a half, and my arse was wiggling most of the time. The crowd was into it, and I was surprised when I looked around occasionally and saw some people standing as still as stones. I gotta say, I never truly understand that. Not even a tapping toe??? But I have come to realize that that’s just the way some people are, and it’s really not an indication of whether or not a person’s having a good time.

The Black Lips are…hmm, well, there’s been a bit of hype about them, and I’m not terribly interested in that. They’re four young guys who come from Georgia, one of them wears a baseball hat with a big turned up bill, one of them has an odd mustachio, the drummer sings a lot, the two guitarists and bassist also sing, sometimes the guitarists totally make out with each other, there is some spitting and some carrying on. The guitar is often very garage-y, there is occasionally a surf influence and a country influence. In one of their songs (“Buried Alive”) the guitar makes me think of a warped carnival carousel. Last night they sometimes led into a song with…hmmm….with what, exactly? I can’t say for sure. Something that sounded sampled, something dub-y and a little unexpected. I don’t know if these intros are on their recorded stuff or not, as I don’t have any, but it sounded cool at the show.

As I mentioned, there’s been a bit of hype about the Black Lips (although I think it’s died down recently). It’s a possibility that they’re playing heavily into that, and that they’re pushing the kooky, rabble rouser thing rather than it being truly genuine. As I don’t know them, I really couldn’t say for sure. They’re also on Vice Records, which does not impress me at all (actually quite the opposite), as I really don’t like Vice magazine. So, there are some questions in my mind about the Black Lips that could prevent me from ever being super into them. All that said, I think they are fun to see live and I had a good time at the show. If you like to boogie down and they are coming your way, check them out for yourself and see what you think!