The Lippies/Turnspit - Live in Grand Rapids (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

The Lippies / Turnspit

Live in Grand Rapids (2019)

live show

The last time I saw The Lippies was March 5th, 2016, almost three years ago. It was the album release party for their self titled debut LP on Red Scare Industries at the Pyramid Scheme in downtown Grand Rapids. That show was a celebration. The band was about to embark on their first major tour, and the sky was the limit. The 420 capacity club was over ¾ full. To put that into perspective, previously The Lippies had opened for Masked Intruder, and then Teenage Bottlerocket/PEARS. They somehow drew a bigger crowd as a headliner than either of those shows. Not long after, it was all over. We were shocked, and left without much of an explanation.

I never thought I'd see The Lippies again. The split seemed fairly acrimonious, and everybody headed their own way. (Actually that's not entirely true. Guitarist Taylor Shupe and bassist Lawrence Kole have been playing together in various projects ever since.) Their unlikely reunion was as surprising as their breakup. I was cynical at first. I doubted they could just pick back up and recapture the incredible momentum they once had. Well, I was wrong again. Here it is nearly three years later, January 5th 2019, and the Pyramid Scheme was even more packed. I even heard an unsubstantiated rumour that the club had hit capacity.

This was their second show since reforming late last year. The first was in Chicago at the War on Xmas with friends and labelmates the Lawrence Arms and The Lillingtons. I'm sure they received a warm reception in the Windy City, but I can't imagine it topped the love they got from their hometown audience.

They stacked the bill with three openers, all of which had at least one female member. That's too many bands for me in my old age. I planned to miss the first band and show up in the middle of the second. I definitely wanted to be there in time to see band #3, Turnspit. My apologies to the first local opener, Pansy. I hope you killed. My timing ended up being a bit off. We missed the first band, but the second one hadn't started yet.

We caught all of Ugly Flannel. I might have called them Sad Flannel. They were definitely on the more depressing end of the ‘90s grunge and alt-rock spectrum. Think of maybe a more downtrodden Smashing Pumpkins, or something similar. That's not to say that they were bad, because they weren't. I mostly enjoyed it, but it wasn't really my thing. I appeared to be in the minority with that opinion. They had a huge, vocal crowd there to support them. I wish them luck. They seem like nice, talented kids.

Turnspit, from Chicago, is a band that I’d been hearing a lot of good things about. It seems like all those good things are true. I was extremely impressed with their aggressive but melodic brand of punk. Guitarists/singers Gillian McGhee and Jason Swearingen trade back and forth on raspy lead vocals, and it makes for a nice contrast. Bassist Brad Davis is the band’s cheerleader with his relentlessly positive between song banter. They invited a bunch of folks onstage for their last song, and it was a riotous good time. I didn’t know any of the songs, but I picked up a beautiful clear red copy of their new record, Desire Paths, so I will next time they come to town.

Turnspit was so good that I was afraid they were going to upstage the headliners. I should have known better. This night belonged to The Lippies. They took the stage to their catchiest pop punk song, “302”, and the last couple of years just melted away. Singer Tonia Broucek has always had sort of an uneasy stage presence. She still does, but it seems a little less uneasy now. The whole band just seemed much more relaxed. It’s like without the weight of previous expectations, they could just have fun. They looked like they were having the time of their lives.

They stuck mostly with tried and true songs from The Lippies. “As We Fall”, “Hot Air Balloon” and “Sleeping” were all crowd favorites. There was a new song inspired by a recent local murder where some sicko killed and dismembered a woman. It’s a sad story, but it’s also encouraging that they’re writing new songs. They finished with another fan favorite “Thelma & Louise”. For their encore, they invited the crowd onstage to join them for an unfortunate version of the Brian Adams ‘classic’ “Summer of ‘69”. It was sloppy but fun.

The band definitely didn’t seem as tight as they were three years ago, but that will come with time. They swear they’re in it for the long haul. I must also say that I felt fairly ancient at this show. It seemed like I was as old as any two average fans combined. That being said, this show brought the Grand rapids scene together like few could. There were an awful lot of hugs, high fives, and of course PBR. The bottom line? It’s great to have The Lippies back.