After being woken up, vocalist and guitarist Cole Alexander came staggering out of Black Lips’ bedroom in their RV to join guitarist Jack Hines and drummer Joe Bradley, traces of white paint and a sleepy expression on his face. Prior to playing the headlining slot on the evening of July 5 on the main stage, Flesh Land, Black Lips have been hanging backstage: swapping stories with Ty Segall, catching the Gories’ set the day before — and, in the case of Alexander, sleeping.
There was this one fan at the front of the Gories crowd, “holding on to his skateboard the whole time,” said Alexander. “It was like, you know how Linus (from Charles Schulz’s comic, Peanuts) has his blanket? That kid was comforted by his skateboard.”
“It was his identity — the skateboard guy,” added Bradley.
Linus — and the other members of Peanuts — seem to be a figure close to Black Lips’ hearts: at the Burger Records merch table, the Black Lips T-shirt featured punked-up versions of Peanuts central characters, such as Linus and Charlie Brown, with each member of the band assigned a different “bad kid” version of a character, complete with earrings, tattoos and an upside-down cross.
Black Lips have built their own identity on their notions of rebellions and being “Bad kids / Products of no dad kids / … Ain’t no college grad kids / Livin’ life out on the skids,” as their 2007 song “Bad Kids” goes. But Alexander, Hines, Bradley and bassist Jared Swilley are much more than that: speaking out against the tradition of rock being a boys-only club, they took to webcam to send in a video to Huffington Post’s Q&A session with KISS’s Gene Simmons, Hines yelling “We’re here to tell you that the day of misogynistic, sexist rock’n’roll is over!”
“There’s a lot of cliches left around from rock and roll over the decades that don’t necessarily ring true, but some of them do,” Bradley said, in reference to the video.
“Uh … sex, drugs and rock and roll is the only way you can do it.” He paused. “At least at some point,” Bradley laughed.
Drugs, in fact, were the main topic of conversation when Alexander met MC and host John Waters. “He’s really friendly,” said Alexander. “He was telling us about this drug called gravel — flakka, sometimes it’s called. It’s like a crazy bath salt — you’re high for like three days, and it gives you feelings of power and fear at the same time.”
But as for taking it?
“I’m kind of scared,” said Alexander. “I took a bath salt once, and I hated it.”
Apart from the chance to sample cuisine — “I like the Vietnamese food here a lot,” mused Bradley — the band was excited to play Boogaloo because of the record label hosting it, Burger Records. “I like how they’ve given a lot of bands an opportunity and a platform for a little promotion. That’s done more for them and, I think, their community than anything,” said Bradley. “And they’re not about the money, either. Those dudes — everything they make they put it right back into their community.”
It’s a community that’s evident outside, where Bradley and Hines were swapping stories with Ty Segall and other musicians. The sense of community is evident inside their RV, too: A polaroid lies on the table of “Kristen Klein (who managed their first tour) and King Khan (of King Khan & BBQ Show), two KKs that we’re friends with,” explained Bradley. Next to it? A packet of American spirits and a bright yellow paperback of a book titled “Rape Rodeo,” its graphic cover depicting two cowboys having sex, giant erect penis and cowboy hat and all. “Helps me unwind,” joked Hines. He picked up the book and pretends to read from it, flipping through its pages. Black Lips may not puke onstage or try penile strumming onstage anymore, like they’ve been known to in the past, but they definitely haven’t lost their edge.
Shannon and the Clams
Oakland-based Shannon and the Clams seem to embody the spirit of Burger Records’ Oakland festival, Burger Boogaloo: fashionably retro, punk in spirit, with damn good music.
Headlining the Psychoville stage on July 4 of the two-day festival, Shannon and the Clams bring layered sunny rock, featuring offbeat rhythms, rippling guitar and plenty of 60s girl-group-worthy swing.
“I’m really excited about the Mummies,” said Shannon Shaw, bassist and vocalist, discussing which bands at Burger Boogaloo she was looking forward to seeing.
“I’m really excited about Sneaky Pinks, also. Normally they’re a three-piece, but they have five people playing (tomorrow),” chimed in guitarist and vocalist Cody Blanchard. “They have a keyboardist (too) … and they never (play live). They play like every two years or something.”
Introducing the band was festival MC and filmmaker John Waters, whom the band cites as one of its heroes. “They’re like my wet dream!” Waters said before the band took the stage.
“Did you meet my new best friend John Waters?” Shaw enthusiastically asked the crowd afterwards. “He was even better than I thought he was going to be!”
It turns out Sneaky Pinks were excited about seeing Shannon and the Clams, too. Sneaky Pinks’ drummer, who goes by Snuky Tate, was front and center at their show, wedged between groups of fans who had driven as far as Long Beach for the festival.
One fan started singing before the set, breaking into an impromptu version of “You Will Always Bring Me Flowers.” “That’s my favorite song!” shouted another fan in response. “I know! It just makes me so happy,” said the first fan, smiling across the crowd at him. Shannon and the Clams made the drive worth it, playing “You Will Always Bring Me Flowers,” as well as more recent crowd-pleasers such as “Rip Van Winkle” and “Ozma” from their 2013 release Dreams In The Rat House.
For any artist, touring with the Ramones seems like an experience that’s pretty hard to beat. It’s especially true for Nikki Corvette, who rose to prominence in the garage rock and punk world in the late 70’s as frontwoman of the aptly-named Nikki and the Corvettes and remained good friends with the Ramones even after their tour ended.
“Playing with the Ramones was awesome,” remembered Corvette. “The opening bands notoriously got a hard time. … The Ramones were like, ‘you know, you do better opening for us than any other band ever has.’ … I loved it. And Johnny (Ramone) would come and stand at the side of the stage, so that would impress the kids.
Although Nikki and the Corvettes have disbanded, Nikki Corvette is very much still making music. Playing the main stage, Flesh Land, on the Sunday of Burger Boogaloo, Corvette drew her fair share of new and old fans alike.
“It was super fun,” Corvette said, speaking backstage after her performance. “I like when I have all girls in front, because in the early days, like when I started out, girls didn’t like me that much, and it was all guys in the front, but I’ve kind of moved past that. You know, like, everybody in the front was singing and dancing, and I had a lot of friends up there, so that made it really fun. When people are excited and having fun, that makes me have more fun, so, you know, it’s just a really symbiotic little circle.”
Having girls at the front and thinking about the female experience in rock music are important points to Corvette.
“In the 70s, you know, nobody wanted to play with a band that had girls in it,” she said. “I got thrown out of shows when they found out that there were girls (playing), and you know, I didn’t have an all-girl band always, and guys were like ‘Well, I don’t have to listen to you — you’re a girl.’ And I’m like, ‘Yeah, the band’s Nikki and the Corvettes, and I started it, and I write the songs. It’s my band, and yeah, you do.’”
Her pink nails match her pink lipstick and hair, and flakes of glitter sparkle on her hands as she waves them when she speaks, articulating physically the excitement she feels.
“This (festival) is one of my top ones,” she said, speaking about Burger Boogaloo in comparison to all the other festivals she’s played at in her storied career.
“And John Waters introducing me — it doesn’t get any better than that!”