Think Outside the Boom box: Black Lips are ‘Bad Kids’

Music columnist Patrick McKenna recounts his experience at a Black Lips show.

A four-hour round trip journey on a Monday night is irresponsible in almost any circumstances. In my case, it was very irresponsible.

On Sept. 15, despite having a test in two days and a mountain of other busy work calling my name, I set forth on an expedition to see one of my favorite bands, Black Lips, for the second time, at St Louis’ The Ready Room.

A quartet known for redefining the phrase “unruly performance,” the seasoned Atlanta garage rock group has released nearly every form of bodily fluid on stage, formed the most raucous of crowd responses, led club workers to trash their own clubs alongside the destructive attendees and much, much more wicked behavior. These shows are not for the light of heart.

Instead, Black Lips shows, like many punk shows, offer an atmosphere that is, while friendly and welcoming, a bit, well, musty. There’s spilled beer in your shoes, hair and pockets. There are kids who most likely have never stepped onto a football field charging into each other at full force, while feet hang above attendee’s heads as crowd surfers surf on. Tattoos, tight skirts and some gnarly beards are a guarantee.

For some, like me, this is what a fun show embodies.

So, with little regard to the consequences that were sure to appear later in the week, I embraced the weeknight show, waiting to be mesmerized.

Opening for the Lips were their fellow enthusiasts of bringing the old flair to the new rock, The King Khan and BBQ Show. A two-man suit, both wearing masks and wigs while King Khan sported his standard look of a purple cape and briefs combo, rattled off an hour-long set of their doo-wop fused with garage rock sound.

As The Ready Room is tiny and intimate, much like Columbia’s Mojo’s, Khan and BBQ were happy to lurch into the crowd to stimulate more energy. Their set ended with a boisterous pit created, waiting to engulf more vigor-filled adolescents and young adults.

Once Black Lips kicked off their set with fan favorite “Sea Of Blasphemy,” the moshing and star-struck youth were receptive in the way an 11-year-old is after opening their first present only to find exactly what they asked Santa for. Hysterical and grinning, fans were pouncing from the stage into the crowd and screaming back every word the Lips rattled off during “Arabia Mountain” (2011) tracks “Family Tree” and “Modern Art.”

Each band member except guitarist Jack Hines contributes vocals, so every member shared the limelight, but this is a group that frankly doesn’t give a shit about limelight. Going into 15 years active, this group lives to cater toward forcing to the crowd to reach a level of dangerously high excitement. They, of course, were successful that night.

It’s impossible to say your favorite song was played when hearing every single song in a set made you feel as if you had died and floated off into the sky. From the bar-room sing-along “Dirty Hands” to the bluesy and boozy “Boys in the Wood” off their most recent record “Underneath the Rainbow,” each song brought the taste of the Lips’ charisma and charm (which, ironically, isn’t charming at all).

After “Bad Kids,” the band’s only track close to a hit pop single, King Khan and the BBQ Show came out to join the Black Lips for their encore, performing two songs off a side project the two groups made together under the name The Almighty Defenders. As both performers and fans held arm and arm in their respective areas, the feeling of love hovered throughout the musty club, as the Monday night punk show ended.

I had a smile on my face the whole drive home.

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