Black Lips with Tweens and JP5 at Exit/In, Thurston Moore with Leslie Keffer and more at Cumberland Pub 

The Spin

The Spin

Atlanta's Bravest

"Thanks for coming out on the Lord's day," Black Lips guitarist and recent Nashville transplant Ian St. Pé jokingly told 150 or so heathens midway through his band's set at Exit/In Sunday night. Truth be told, for a Sunday (at $20 a head) it was a solid turnout to see Atlanta's Bad News Bears of Garage Rock. Luckily, by the time the Lips hit the stage, the lazy-day crowd was warmed up and ready rock after a pair of spitfire sets from Cincinnati "trash-pop" trio Tweens and local quintet JP5, openers that would prove tough acts to follow. Once again, JP5 established itself one of local rock's best treasures, and still one of our best-kept secrets.

Nashville's never really had its answer to The Replacements, but JP5 — fronted by Paul Westerberg School of Rock graduate Joey Plunket, complete with blood-and-guts vocals and rock-star-ready swagger — comes pretty damn close. It's reckless, barroom power pop (but without the fuck-ups) that boasts a Southern-rock triple-guitar assault and background-vocal hooks that are more mod revival than Minneapolis worship. Accordingly, the 5 — which features local punk stalwart Cy Barkley (who puts on a shred fest far different from the hardcore offerings of his own band) as well as Ettes bassist Jem Cohen — dress the part, with the band's wardrobe a mixture of denim, plaid and crushed velvet.

We were cautious in expecting great things from Tweens. Seriously, how good or creative can a band with a name like Tweens really be, right? As it turns out, pretty damn good. They commanded the crowd's attention with a bracing set of sprightly, speed-addled, poppy garage punk. Granted, that's exactly the kind of band we'd expect to see open for Black Lips, but this band — a sort of doo-wop-y take on Richard Hell and the Voidoids crossed with Bratmobile — had killer songs, and played them with infectious vigor. They were so committed to keeping energy levels up that they didn't even take a break when the bass cabinet crapped out, playing on as a two piece while that sitch got sorted out. Exploding-ball-of-energy singer Bridget Battle jumped, head-banged and howled, while panic-faced drummer Jerri Queen furiously pounded along, looking like he was feverishly trying to free himself from a straitjacket before drowning.

Not to be outdone, Black Lips stormed the stage lit by floodlights. They appeared under a backdrop with their name cast in the style of the Atlanta Braves' tomahawk logo, opening with a slapdash version of their gang-vocal-laden rallying call "Family Tree" as kids bumped shoulders in the pogo pit. Gone are the band's days of upchucking on the crowd, setting shit on fire or whatever other antics once made them notorious. The Lips are, all hyperbole intended, a little bit like The Rolling Stones in that no matter how tight they get, they'll always be just loose enough for rock 'n' roll.

The set featured a handful of new jams from an album the Lips told the crowd was cut at least partially in Nashville — St. Pé recently told us the record was produced in part by The Black Keys' Patrick Carney. Among the lot was a country shuffle that, judging by the chorus, is probably called "It's All Good." The best new tune was a wistfully anthemic party-pop gem that sounded like a gang of punked-out fraternity bros chanting along to some lost Paul Weller Jam nugget. Ending, at least ostensibly, on a sloppy note, the Lips closed the set with another new song — a woozy waltz they only sort of remembered how to play. Luckily they got their mojo back during a double-encore set, highlighted by a rousing "Bad Kids" sing-along that inspired a crowd surfer or two.

There Will Be Blood

The musicians of Music City are so damn good at making popular music that there's constant danger of the groove turning into a rut. Leslie Keffer has long been one of the most vocal advocates for noise music in the Midstate, carving out much-needed space for experimental perspectives in a scene dominated by different sides of pop, and the news that she's leaving town was a bitter pill for The Spin. The spoonful of sugar was that her going-away party would be a blowout show at Cumberland Pub, and the spectacle of dissonance did not disappoint: We moshed with folks who could have been our grandparents, dodged spatters of real blood and danced to couple-skate jams. Thurston Moore was there, too.

Regular Scene readers may be familiar with Keffer's efforts on behalf of noise and her association with the Sonic Youth crew, releasing albums via Moore's Ecstatic Peace! label and even opening for them at City Hall in 2008. It's not unusual for her and Moore to get together at a nearby bar for a little ear-melting jam after an SY-related show in Nashville; this time, however, Moore's schedule didn't allow for an after-hours set, so he flew in on his own dime for a hangout the night before his Chelsea Light Moving gig at Exit/In.

Word of mouth gathered around 40 patrons to the storefront bar. Also, talk about DIY: Not only did Keffer have to book the show, run sound and perform, she was the only bartender, until some friends agreed to pitch in. After ironing out some technical difficulties, Scene contributor Seth Graves kicked off his Gay Vibes set shortly after 11. The band has had up to eight members at a time, but Graves flew solo here, livening up a press-the-spacebar DJ set with a surprisingly elaborate synchronized light show, complete with half a gallon of fog juice. Pretty Lights it was not, but the collection of dark tropical beats punctuated by samples of film dialogue was an entertaining enough listen for breaking the ice.

The Cherry Blossoms appeared next as a trio, with stalwart percussionist Chris Davis backing up core Blossoms Peggy Snow and John Allingham. Snow's soft folk vocals were just audible enough to give eerie commentary as apocalyptic lullabies turned into free-form death-blues jams. This is the spot where we'd kvetch about how long it took them to set up and tear down if they were any other band — it's not something that would fly in a traditional setting, but if we were up for traditional, we'd have been somewhere else.

At this point, it was well into Monday morning, and even most diehards would be ready to pack it in, but we — and most of the crowd — were determined to stick it out. Five bands really is too many for a bill starting this late, even on a special occasion. Angela Messina, aka All Girl Chorus Line, rewarded our persistence with half a dozen hyper-overdriven garage-punk numbers, aided by a drum machine and "Drunkle" Kevin Cunningham as a living mic stand and dry-witted foil to her fury. The highlight of Messina's set was an intensely dark and mangled version of Jesse Winchester's "New Tennessee Waltz."

Tension mounted as the stage cleared, and Keffer and Moore took over. Moore coaxed a blood-curdling wail from his Jazzmaster, a sound he bent and manipulated with the ease and grace of a Ghostbuster firing a proton pack. Keffer plugged in her guitar, customized with a built-in radio receiver, and unleashed a blast of complementary howls and squeals. As she charged the crowd, we found ourselves in the middle of a slow-motion mosh pit: Peggy Snow, who until now reminded us a lot of our grandparents, was ululating and shoving us around like so many empty cardboard boxes. Keffer took to writhing on the floor and screaming as if wrestling a demon. Keffer was shirtless and covered in blood when we caught a glimpse through the mass of bodies. Before we could figure out if it was part of the act, we saw local songwriter Reid Magette face down on the floor at the back of the crowd; it was hard to tell if the blood came from an accidental collision between the two, or if the injuries were unrelated. Friends helped Magette to a car, which we understand took him to the E.R.; it appeared to us he might lose a tooth. Keffer and Moore, unaware of what had happened at the back of the throng, wrapped their set about five minutes later with gracious thanks and a plug for Nashville bands.

The final set, featuring Cunningham as Lazer Slut, functioned as a cooling-off. While he ran conflicting drum patterns through an audio meat grinder, a friend in the audience trained in first aid helped Keffer doctor her wound, a half-inch gash to the back of her head, and others went for the mops and sanitizer. By the time Cunningham finished, everything was back to normal, or at least as normal as you get on a Sunday night spent with an internationally revered rock star and a lady who keeps performing through a trail of her own blood.



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