With temps soaring into the triple digits and the A/C in our ride on the fritz, The Spin — for some reason — thought it would be a great idea to eat about a pound of fried seafood before Black Lips' show at Exit/In on Wednesday night. Way to go, us! No matter. We entered the half-full Exit to the sounds of The Clutters' "Under Suspicion" — a viable candidate for Summer Jam 2011 — and quickly squelched the seafood sweats with a cold one and a lean, mean dose of familiar local garage rock.
We presume that the few dozen folks who would later pour in and fill out the venue were across the street at Gold Rush during the opening acts' sets — an increasingly common practice among Rock Block show attendees. Their loss, as they missed a great acapella rendition of Lady Gaga's "You and I" courtesy of Clutters drummer Stephanie Brush. She was killing time as frontman Doug Lehmann changed a string — apparently one of The Clutters managed tweet about it while onstage. Here's your obligatory mention. Anyway, front-of-house sound was really good — that's what happens when you actually do a sound-check, Lehmann later informed us.
Between sets, local renaissance man Ben Todd (aka DJ Nashville's Dead) was working the ones and twos, pumping out all that psych rock, doo-wop and punk the kids love to shuffle their feet to. The tunes were actually a pretty suiting segue into the shambolic sounds of Seattle's Night Beats, who let us know right off the bat that they're "from Outer Space Dot Com," which we should check out. We totally buy it, as their fractured strain of psychedelia sounded a bit like King Tuff and other members of the freaky throwback movement. Guitars and vocals were wet and verby, and while the drummer maybe could have stood to tune his snare a bit — it sounded like a wet cardboard box full of pudding from where we stood — the sloppiness of it all worked with Night Beats' aesthetic: full of far-out and freaky vibes, with an especially psychedelic freak-out toward the end of their set. Also, Night Beats looked like they probably smell fuckin' ripe. Only saying.
At this point, Exit/In was pretty close to full — not quite a sell-out, but probably close. With fog swirling, self-proclaimed flower punks Black Lips tore viscerally into tunes from across their relatively dense catalog. For their first two numbers, the Lips were accompanied by a sax player, who provided some barely audible icing to the already thick-as-hell cake of searing guitars and blown-out gang vocals. Their playing was anything but pristine, but god dammit, thank you, Black Lips, for being one of the few remaining outfits who embrace the raw, nasty elements of rock 'n' roll, spitting them back in our faces with reckless abandon.
And speaking of spitting, yes, there was a little bit of that. Not as much as the last time we saw Black Lips — at Mercy Lounge for Those Darlins' album release about two years ago — but still some. Also, their set was accompanied by some trippy visuals courtesy of one of those liquid-light projector deals, which the Lips referred to as "magic time." Without the sheen of Mark Ronson's production, live renditions of tunes from their latest, Arabia Mountain, felt ... well, more like the Black Lips. Filthy, fun and completely fresh. We ended up looking pretty dorky waiting around for an encore — after about 10 minutes, it became pretty apparent that we weren't going to get one. We kinda wanted to hear "Bicentennial Man," but we'll live. Now, who wants to go across the street to Gold Rush?!