The Black Lips booked an ambitious tour of the Middle East in 2011 but had to scuttle those plans when the Arab Spring rocked the region. So the Atlanta-based band pushed it back a year and played where few rockers have ever ventured (though the Grateful Dead famously played Egypt in the late-1970s), especially a self-described “flower punk” band. With a camera crew in tow, the Lips set out to “bridge cultural divides and smash stereotypes with the universal sound of punk rock.” As the resulting documentary, Kids Like You & Me, attests, they pretty much succeeded.
The film captures the rhythms of a typical rock tour, the ebb and flow of media interviews, driving, scheduling snafus, interactions with fans, and downtime between shows. All this might not be so interesting, but, here, the backdrop isn’t New York, L.A., Chicago, and D.C.—it’s Cairo, Alexandria, Beirut, Amman, Erbil, and Dubai, as the band makes its way through Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, and the UAE.
At each stop, they find vibrant culture, day-to-day life not unlike what you’d see in U.S. and European cities, and, as the film’s title suggests, a core audience of punk rock fans. The interview with the band on MTV Lebanon is surreal, and the footage of Egyptian kids rocking out to Ramones-ish garage rock played by a quartet of scruffy Georgians gives me hope for the future—more so than anything I’ve seen recently on CNN or Al Jazeera.