“Thanks for coming out on the Lord’s day,” Black Lips guitarist and relatively recent Nashville transplant Ian Saint Pe 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 at this point, still one of the city’s best-kept secrets.
Nashville’s never really had its answer to The Replacements, but JP5 — fronted by with-honors Paul Westerberg School of Rock graduate Joey Plunket, whose warm-but-gruff, blood-and-guts vocals and rock-star-ready swagger — comes pretty damn close. It's reckless, barroom power pop (but without the all 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, along with the band’s other axe man Adam Meisterhans, 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’ll admit, 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 — even great at some points. In spite of their shitty, unfortunate name, the band commanded the crowd’s (The Spin included!) 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 — which sounded like a sort of doo-wop-y take on Richard Hell and the Voidoids crossed with Bratmobile — had pretty killer songs, and played them with rather infectious vigor. Especially for a Sunday night.
The band was 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, sometimes loud enough to peak in the PA, while panic-faced drummer Jerri Queen furiously pounded along, looking like he was feverishly trying to free himself from a straitjacket before drowning. Good shit; check ‘em out.
Not to be outdone, Black Lips stormed the stage lit by flood lights and appearing under a backdrop with their name cast in the style of the Atlanta Braves' tomahawk logo, opening with a predictably slapdash version of their gang-vocal-laden rallying call “Family Tree” as kids bumped shoulders in the pogo pit. Long 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, and now they stick to simply making a glorious mess of their songs.
The set featured a handful of new jams from an album the Lips told the crowd was cut at least partially in Nashville — guitarist Ian Saint Pe recently told the Scene that the record was produced in part by Black Keys drummer Patrick Carney. Among the lot was a water-logged-sounding country shuffle that we think, judging by the chorus, is probably called “It’s All Good,” plus a punky, side-to-side head-nodder that was heavier on riffs and energy than it was on hooks.
On the flip side, 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. Thanks, Lips. We can always count on you guys for a good time.