Review: Flipper at Lion's Lair, 3/29/12
Flipper last night at Lion's Lair
"How do you get a hippie girl pregant?" asked Rachel Thoele before Flipper even played a note. "Cum on her Birkenstocks, and let the flies do the rest." Bruce Loose had a chuckle and asked her if she had any more jokes. She did. "What do nine out of ten people enjoy?" No one seemed to have an answer. "Gang rape." Then Loose joked, "Sometimes that's ten out of ten." As Loose later remarked, "This is typical Flipper."
There was some conscious -- or perhaps unconscious meeting -- of frequencies between Ted Falconi's guitar and Rachel Thoele's bass when Flipper kicked into its opening number, "The Lights, The Sound, The Rhythm, The Noise." It sounded like they were giving voice to something deep in the earth. All the while Stephen DePace's drums seemed to dance on top of the quick-flowing lava pace and burning sound of the two stringed instruments.
Of course Bruce Loose had an expression half-possessed, half-amused the entire time except when he staked the stage looking heavy but not being able to resist cracking a smile at the absurdity of how he would look to himself roaming about like that. And still, Flipper's music isn't funny. Unless a natural disaster has comedic value, which sometimes it does in a cosmic sense of things.
Before playing "Transparent Blame" from the band's most recent album of new material, Love, Thoele told us it was funny that the song was written by Krist Novoselic. Loose missed part of what she said because of all the noise, but they both decided it was, indeed, funny in the end. During "(You Saw Me) Shine," Chris Ritter from the opening band Crash turned the stage lights toward Loose to get better lightning for pictures, but Loose kept turning them back, and he even changed the lyrics in one part to "Turn the lights/I don't want you photographing me" while pointing at Ritter with a smile and without missing a beat. Loose is nothing, if not a professional.
Flipper at Lion's Lair
In the opening of "Life Is Cheap," DePace hit a particularly strong salvo of percussion that gave the song some of its incredible forward momentum. One of the moments of greatest ferocity came with the performance of "Sacrifice" and between moments of anguished utterances of lyrics, Loose gestured with what seemed to be well-practiced gestures to carry him through the choruses.
Afterward, Loose took up the bass and Thoele took on the lead vocals position. She announced she had only ever sang the song twice in public before tonight. And, of course, it was "Sex Bomb." Thoele sang/screamed/yelled the lyrics with a distorted gusto to the point of leaning so completely forward at times that her head reached the ground.
The crowd wasn't letting Flipper go, so Loose started speaking the words to "The Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly." Eventually DePace went back to the drums, and Thoele played a simple bass line, and it started to almost sound like a rap song. Falconi stood on his side of the stage and laughed at Loose's antics when the guy started to, intentionally or not, flub the lyrics here and there. But this just all added to the ridiculousness of the moment.
Flipper with Sonic of Crash on guitar
After the song ended, Falconi left the stage and Loose called Sonic from Crash to the stage, but he didn't show up right away and the three remaining members of Flipper started playing "Only One Answer," and at various points, Trevor from Thee Goochi Boiz got up and took the guitar mike and started screaming into it. Someone took the mike from him and gave it back to Loose, who put it on the mike stand, where it looked like Karl Alvarez of The Descendents and All got up and screamed into the mike, too.
It started to become a bit of a mess and Loose remarked, "This is typical Flipper." Sonic eventually made his way to the stage to play guitar, and the band, minus Ted Falconi, performed "Love Canal," which pretty much everyone in the audience recognized immediately. When the song came to a rumbling end, Loose got up from having sat down a few minutes before the end, and he put up both hands in the appropriate gesture and said, "Remember, always hang loose."
If that wasn't the joke of the night, it's hard to say what was. DePace got on the mike on his way off stage and said, "Well that went to shit real quick." But Thoele had the last laugh of the evening by singing a bit of "The Gambler." It will probably be a long time before the Lion's Lair, or any place in town, gets another show this inspiring -- unless Flipper, who is playing the Lair this evening with Glass Hits, manages to outdo itself tonight.
Page down for review of Crash's set, Flipper's setlist and Critic's Notebook.
CRASH @ LION'S LAIR | 3/29/12
The night started off with Crash, a four piece with Chris Ritter, who was in the classic hardcore band Fang, on drums, Jay Fox, who was also in United Mutations and Into the Ether, on bass, Sonic on guitar and Erich Fury on vocals. Crash did a lot of covers, including the opening number, an excellent rendition of "The Money Will Roll Right In" by Fang.
Sonic didn't jump around at all, but his guitar work was as deceptively basic as it was cutting and textured, even beyond just nailing the songs. Fox has always been a strong and dynamic bassist with the ability to deliver strong vocals either as a lead or backing singer. Ritter, too, proved to be an able vocalist on top of being able to shift rhythmic styles easily with each song.
Fury had on some kind of blue eye shadow that made him look sort of like Davey Havok from AFI and ripped white T-shirt with the words "I Banged Oprah" emblazoned on the front. As a frontman, he was entertaining, especially when he sang standing on top of the bar. And while he hit all the lyrics perfectly, he seemed to be trying a bit too hard to be confrontational without being confrontational, from the inside projecting outward.
He might do this at other shows, but he seemed a little nervous on this night -- although it was not to the point where it was distracting. Heck, anyone opening for a band like Flipper can be excused for being nervous. At least had the nerve and self-possession to ask the audience once, "Are you still here to see Flipper?" Based on the cheers after every song, plenty of people enjoyed Crash too.
Flipper Lion's Lair - 3/29/12 Denver, CO
01. The Lights, The Sound, The Rhythm, The Noise 02. Way of the World 03. Ha Ha Ha 04. Transparent Blame 05. (I Saw You) Shine 06. Life Is Cheap 07. Hard Cold World 08. Survivors of the Plague 09. Shed No Tears 10. Sacrifice 11. Sex Bomb 12. The Old Lady Who Swallowed the Fly 13. Only One Answer 14. Love Canal
Personal Bias: Flipper has been one of my favorite bands since I found out about them around twenty years ago and getting to see them twice in one day was a rare pleasure.
Random Detail: Ran into Lloyd Arcesia formerly of Mood Syrup, Joey Wiley formerly of Lil Slugger, Mike Howard of Zebroids and Stella Montoya, one of the co-hosts of Double Trouble, at the show.
By the Way: At one point, Thoele asked who the guy was taking notes, and that they weren't from around here and that that guy was making her nervous. Loose joked that he was in the N.S.A. But that he was me and, for the record, I am not in the N.S.A., C.I.A., F.B.I., and I'm definitely not a cop.
Follow Backbeat on Twitter: @westword_music
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene with music features, additional online music listings and show picks. We'll also send special ticket offers and music promotions available only to our Music Newsletter subscribers.