Possibly 4th Street: Black Lips Sing About STDs


Possibly 4th Street is a regular SOTC feature in which writer Rob Trucks invites musicians he likes to play anywhere, somewhere, in public. Last week, he brought you a songwriter who brought us to a dog run. This week, we bring you a couple of “fucked-up, Atlanta-bred, corn-fed Pucks” singing about a woman who gave them STDs.

photo by Rob Trucks

Possibly 4th Street: Black Lips

by Rob Trucks

I’m downstairs at the Bowery Ballroom with Jared Swilley, bassist/vocalist of the Black Lips. We’ve just returned from Sara D. Roosevelt Park where Jared and Joe Bradley, the only two members of Black Lips who don’t play guitar onstage, took out acoustics and strummed a few songs. We’re near the end of our interview when Jared asks if he can take one of his answers back. The reason: “Because my dad might read this.”

[Exclusive Black Lips MP3 after the jump]

Jared’s dad is Bishop Jim Earl Swilley, founding pastor of the Church in the Now in Conyers, Georgia, a man recently recognized by no less than the Georgia State Legislature for his “leadership” of a “cutting edge, multicultural, interdenominational church . . . with a life-changing message of restoration, the nowness of God, and a progressive vision for the future.” Bishop Swilley is yet another rung in a long, long ladder of Swilleys called into the ministry. According to the Bishop’s son, the Swilleys of Georgia have been ministers “probably since they got off the boat in Savannah or Brunswick.”

And since parents are parents, regardless of whether or not they work on Sunday, Jared’s desire to exorcise the part of our discussion dealing with a certainly private and likely illegal act is understandable. Until you realize that he and his bandmates have been documented–over and over and over, in fact–participating in onstage behavior that is much, much worse.

For a goodly part of the Black Lips career, the group’s live shows have been better known more for what the band did than what the band played. So surely Bishop Swilley has read of the multiple offerings of bodily excretions made by his son’s band. For starters, vomit and spit and piss (oh my). Some of which ends up on the floor, some on the audience.

The Lips’ most infamous New York show took place in February 2006. Opening for Wolfmother at the Mercury Lounge, the band engaged in at least one onstage makeout session and one instance of a Black Lip (guitarist/vocalist Cole Alexander) urinating into his own mouth before discharging his discharge onto the audience. That the band refused to end their set even after the PA was cut off and the lights turned on was, of course, mere icing on an unbelievably disgusting cake.

The performance was sufficiently shocking to get the Lips banned, at least for a time, from all Bowery Presents facilities. But as they say, money talks and bullshit walks (or gets thrown on the audience), because in less than five hours after Jared Swilley asks me to edit and excise a certain part of our talk, his band will play to a sold-out house here at the previously enraged promoter’s mothership, the Bowery Ballroom.

Something else for Bishop Swilley to read about.

Black Lips, “Blue Yodel (Live at Sara D. Roosevelt Park)” (MP3)

Possibly 4th Street

Volume I, Issue Four

Who: Black Lips bassist Jared Swilley and drummer Joe Bradley

When: Tuesday evening, September 18th

Where: The playground within Sara D. Roosevelt Park between Rivington and Stanton.

Songs Performed: “Bad Kids,” “Hippie, Hippie, Hoorah,” “T for Texas (Lips Lyrical Remix)”

Who the hell is Sara D. Roosevelt?
Sara Delano Roosevelt was the mother of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, her only child. She died at the age of 86, three months to the day before Pearl Harbor was bombed. The park, which stretches from East Houston to Canal, was dedicated in 1934, two years after her son was first elected President.

A really strong case for our inaugural Band That Busked The Furthest Award:
“Originally it was supposed to be like we were going to do like Palestine versus Israel. Like where’s better to busk? But we never ended up having time to busk in Jerusalem. But we just thought it would be unfair if we went over there and only played in Israel.

“Unfortunately I don’t think there’s any rock clubs in the West Bank, so we just had to take it to the streets. And actually it was really well received. I was kind of nervous because the first taxi driver we saw, he like said we were fucked, but we were with some locals and a bunch of kids came out and people, they brought us tea and gave us kaffirs. ‘Johnny B. Goode’ was the only song they recognized. We started doing it and they started singing a Hamas chant along to the tune of ‘Johnny B. Goode.'”

The “most random thing” Swilley saw in Palestine:
“We did see [the Southern fast-food joint] Checkers in the West Bank, which was really weird. Oh, and we also saw Flipper graffiti inside. It was on the wall, like on the Palestinian side of the wall.”

Previous busking experience:
“We used to do it on tour to subsidize not getting paid from clubs. The first five plus years of touring we were always kind of in the red as far as like money. Actually a lot of times we would make more money busking outside of a show than we would at the actual show.”

A spooky rung in the Swilley’s ministerial ladder:
“Actually my great-grandpa, they called him The Walking Bible. He used to travel around in a wagon, like a horse-pulled wagon, all around Georgia. And since he was Pentecostal and spoke in tongues, people would think he was a snakehandler. And he used to have to drive with his brother who had like a shotgun. I heard all these tales. I mean, you know, I think they’re just old stories, but like one time a crowd of people came up and they said, ‘Hey Preacherman, here’s a snake,’ and they said he grabbed the snake in the air and it turned into like a stick and he broke it over his knee. And then one time like a mob came on him and he quoted some scripture and they all started fighting each other.”

One thing Jared Swilley says he’s never done:
“Bought underwear.”