Beautiful Mess

"San Diego to Tijuana... Arguably the most infamous border town of the Western World. The last hedonist haven. Crossing from a city that thrives on consumerism to a city that survives on debauchery, we were thrown into a place with no boundaries. Exactly what we needed..." So begins the liner text on the Black Lips' Los Valientes del Mundo Nuevo, the Atlanta garage-rock band's live album released in February but apparently recorded by John Reis at a wild Tijuana show last September.

Reviewers ran with the storyline, praising the record if expressing some doubt about its pedigree: "For this live set (if the liner notes are to be believed), the Black Lips opted to record a gig in one of the world's great centers of debauchery -- Tijuana, Mexico -- and hired a mariachi band to open the show," wrote Mark Deming for the All Music Guide. "A drunken and audibly enthusiastic audience packed the joint, hookers performed lewd acts while the band wailed onstage, and a splendid time was had by all capable of remembering the evening.... [T]he performances... sometimes sound suspiciously coherent for a real live recording...."

"This 12-song sonic apocalypse -- recorded live, as the story goes, at a mariachi club in Tijuana -- serves as an excellent introduction to these debauched rockers," summarized Rolling Stone reviewer Elizabeth Goodman.

In their early 20s now but together since their teens, the Black Lips have earned a rep for shows involving fireworks, nudity, etc., often playing multiple shows in a single day. (They are scheduled to play M-Theory Records today at 6 p.m. and the Casbah tonight.)

After a sweaty in-store set in Philadelphia earlier this year, drummer/vocalist Joe Bradley explained that the live record in TJ was the idea of their new record label Vice. "We have a new album coming out later this year [last month's Good Bad Not Evil], but Vice wanted something sooner to push, a live greatest hits record.... They wanted to call it Arriba Tijuana, but we thought that was boring."

Bradley confirmed that Reis had indeed miked the Tijuana gig and that Ernie Quintero, a friend of theirs from the Imperial Valley who had toured with them and booked them in Mexicali, was the guy who set up the show and put the label in touch with Reis.

Quintero, who plays keyboards in Slab City, gave details of the show by e-mail:

"I went through my friend Memo from Tijuana to help book the show...at the Salón Social Blanco y Negro. The venue is right off the main drag of the Revolución.... [Synth-punkers] Maniqui Lazer from Mexicali opened.... I don't remember the name of the mariachi band.... You can hire the mariachis right where Revolución begins under the big-ass arch that's on the cover of the CD. They hang out on the corner waiting to get picked up just like hookers -- it's rad.

"The [free] show was a beautiful mess. Vice threw down, like, $600 on Tecate caguamas [liter bottles], and they also bought a shitload of tequila and all the drinks were free for everyone. There was also a coke dealer that came with an extra-large Ziploc bag...and poured mounds of coke in people's palms....

"Some chick was ---- herself onstage while the Black Lips were playing.... And John Reis was there recording everything. He even had mikes hanging from the ceiling!"

And as for the stories of a Black Lips' near-bust in TJ?

"Yeah, this dude Randy who used to roadie for the Black Lips got caught peeing outside of a strip club/whorehouse that we all went to after the show," confirmed Quintero. "The Mexican cops planted some drugs on him, and he had to pay them $800 [emptying his ATM account] to get out of it. It was his first time in TJ, and he didn't know that peeing in the streets is, like, the worst thing you could do in Mexico. Even Mexicans get busted for that. I wish I was there with him so I could've talked the cops into a way lower payout."

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