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The Black Lips at Turf Club, 4/27/14

The Black Lips at Turf Club, 4/27/14
Erik Hess

The Black Lips
with Natural Child
Turf Club, St. Paul
Sunday, April 27, 2014

With all of the shiny new plastic popping up in St. Paul's broad-shouldered Midway neighborhood, rock 'n' roll relics like the Turf Club become even more vital. In just about a month, the landmark venue will close for much-needed renovations on First Avenue's dime. Here's hoping we get in a few more rowdy, sweaty shows like the one The Black Lips brought last night before they fix the AC.

See also:
Slideshow: Black Lips at Turf Club, 4/27/14

Atlanta's Black Lips are the kind of rough and ready punk band that lives best when they're on their way off the rails and taking the crowd along with them. Rolling into town too late to make sound-check, the boys had to get by with a quick, 30-second dust-off in front of an already well-primed sold-out audience. Apologizing with a laconic drawl, the four-piece cranked up the feedback to begin "Sea of Blasphemy," reminiscent of the Retards' cacophonous guitars. A quick segue to their poppier newish material followed, as the boys took a spirited run through the first two tracks on 2011's stellar Arabia Mountain. "Family Tree" made for a great opening unifier, with the 'Lips propulsive energy ripping a hole in front of the stage for the mosh pit to open.

The Black Lips at Turf Club, 4/27/14
Erik Hess

The rest of the night would see the increasingly drunk but high-functioning Black Lips shuffle through fresh tracks from Underneath the Rainbow while peppering their set with "oldies but stinkies" (to quote bassist Jared Swilley) like "Dirty Hands." That song's rambling spoken section, featuring lines about a dolphin belly-button tattoo, sounded more natural when slurred into the milieu of the band's shambolic live sound, and the same can be said of brand new songs like "Drive-By Buddy." With a riff that would have made Tom Petty proud, the song's punk roots shone through at the Turf in a way that Rainbow's cleaner production simply couldn't capture. Same goes for lead single "Boys in the Wood," which tends to drag on-record but thrives as a meandering, menacing slow-burner onstage. With a halfhearted puffing from a lonely little smoke machine, and some low-rent light effects, the song even managed to conjure some backwoods mysticism.

 

While the Black Lips' antics show some signs of the juvenile delinquency that build their reputation, the overall set felt tighter than the band's previous trips through town, no doubt spurred by their growing popularity and success. There was even a few signs of maturity in-between songs. "I've got my fiancé on tour with me," guitarist Ian St. Pe offered during a pause, "We're getting married in 12 days. I'm proud man, I tell it to everybody!" But even if the 'Lips are mellowing with age, their Turf Club crowd was as rambunctious as they come, with plenty of drunken hooting and even a crowd-surfer during the mod-poppy "Smiling." Chalk that up to great pacing from the band, even on their jammiest 'tunes the Black Lips tend to keep things short-but sweet, cramming a ton of material into their hour long performance.

The Black Lips at Turf Club, 4/27/14
Erik Hess

As the heat in the room skyrocketed into serious, jungle-sweat territory, the band made an especially strong final leg to close out their set. The melodic, surfy jangle of "Make You Mine" blended into the stomping "Raw Meat" before the band finally wrapped things up with the greasy doo-wop of their fan-favorite "Bad Kids." Swilley grabbed the mic to profusely and incoherently thank the crowd for their support, showing 100 percent sincerity as he waxed about us looking up at the moon to remember the band as we left, or something. After a very brief break (the Turf doesn't have much of a dressing room) the band returned to bash out a two-song encore. Swilley was beaming as he took the stage, seemingly overjoyed as he sipped his unmolested beverage "Y'all didn't even drink my beer while we were gone! That was sure nice of y'all!"

The Black Lips at Turf Club, 4/27/14
Erik Hess

Set List:
Sea of Blasphemy
Family Tree
Modern Art
Justice After All
Dirty Hands
Drive-by Buddy
New Direction
Boys in the Wood
Stuck in my Mind
Go Out and Get It
Noc-a-Homa
Not a Problem
Smiling
Lock and Key
Make You Mine
Raw Meat
Bad Kids

Critic's Bias: This is the second time I've caught The Black Lips in town, and I vastly preferred this set to the one they did with Detroit Cobras at the Varsity a few years back.

The Crowd: Featured a surprising amount of camo-print and trucker hats.

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