BROOKLYN, New York — When the circus comes to town, everyone takes notice. But Wednesday night at Sound Fix Records in Brooklyn was not your typical Ringling Bros./ Barnum & Bailey event: In the center ring were garage-rockers Black Lips, who decided that a record store is a good a place as any to try and throw a circus.
The band is part of a thriving Atlanta indie-rock scene that also includes Deerhunter, Manchester Orchestra and others. Originally slated to be a simple in-store acoustic performance, the band decided to take it one step — OK, several steps — further, dubbing the event the “Black Lips Circus and Bad Kids’ Parade.” The band’s shows are notorious for bad behavior both onstage and off — most famously involving several different kinds of bodily fluids, which the band has largely stopped doing — so the concept isn’t much of a stretch. “It’s always kind of a circus mentality of people being degenerates at our shows, so we decided to take it to the next level by inviting kids — not even at a show — to parade down the streets,” Lips singer/guitarist Cole Alexander said of the event.
“We wanted to spice things up a little. It was kind of thrown together last minute, though,” said bassist Jared Swilley — and that much was apparent. The circus part of the night was a tad bumpy due to a bunch of last-minute cancellations (including jugglers, ponies and a couple of other circus acts), but the band’s acoustic set went ahead with burlesque dancers and a marching band that led the crowd into the streets for the second portion of the night, the “Bad Kids’ Parade.”
“We embody bad kids, and that’s why we created the Bad Kids Circus, to parade down the streets, promoting juvenile delinquent behavior,” Cole said of the parade. And while there was no overtly bad behavior along the parade route, it was nonetheless a rousing success. Fans poured from the record store, led by the Black Lips and the marching band, who played rousing anthems all the way to the Music Hall of Williamsburg, where the band hit the stage for a proper — well, kind of proper — show later in the night.
By the time the parade reached the venue, it had swelled to 200 or so people, complete with confetti launchers, fire-breathers, skateboarding bandmembers and fans in costume and face paint.
And the revelry only gained intensity when the band hit the stage for a typically rambunctious set. As the band tore through a set of fan favorites and songs from their brand-new fifth LP, Good Bad Not Evil, fans formed a giant pit, slam-dancing while crowd-surfers bounded from the stage.
Between the sweaty mess of bodies and beers being hurled into the air, barely a soul left the Music Hall dry.