No sound check? No problem in the case of the Black Lips. Perhaps with an eye for the miserable weather forecast in town, Atlanta’s hard-blasting garage-pop/psychedelic-punk quartet took their sweet time getting to St. Paul on Sunday night for a sold-out Turf Club show. They wound up getting there too late to try out the sound system. Lesser bands might’ve crumbled.
After a longer-than-usual set-up, though, the Lips members climbed on stage and tinkered on their instruments for a minute or two – which only seemed to heighten the anticipation. When they finally dove in, the energy immediately rippled through the crowd like an elephant doing a cannonball.
Sunday’s show was a near-antithesis of the Temples set I saw at First Avenue a few nights earlier. Where Temples were impressively tight yet too by-the-numbers and stolid on stage, with only a few strong songs to their young name yet, the Black Lips came off predictably unhinged and erratically electrifyingly, with a decade’s worth of nuggets to pull out in quick wham-bam fashion.
Having all four members handle vocals is one of this band’s great assets. It allows them to keep up a breathless pace. It also leads to some mightily boisterous, drunken-Irish-pub-singalong-style choruses, as was the case right away with “Family Tree” and a few songs later in “Dirty Hands.” From the get-go, the structural soundness of the soon-to-be-renovated Turf show room was put to the test as fans jumped around the dance floor and moshed and crowd surfed all night.
Newer songs such as “Justice After All” and especially the bluesy, grinding gem “Boys in the Wood” added a slower yet dirtier vibe, while the new album’s twang-stomp opening track “Drive-by Buddy” proved to be one of the rowdiest highlights of the night.
After echoing everyone from the Kinks and Animals to Eddie Cochran and Link Wray throughout the show, the band went straight to the source for its encore finale with a loosely spun, hard-slamming cover of Chuck Berry’s “Too Much Monkey Business.” Overall, the show might've qualified as a whole lot of monkeying around -- especially with the unperfected sound and the fact that it clocked in at just over an hour -- but the crowd went bananas nonetheless. And rightfully so.