It was just after 10 p.m. when the fog machine began belching clouds and the house music was cut. As the members of Atlanta, Georgia's Black Lips took the stage, cheers erupted from the near-capacity crowd at the Firebird. Lead guitarist Ian Saint Pé was the first to speak.
"Remember now," he began. "If it's perfect, it's not rock & roll. Let's go!"
The statement proved prophetic and made clear where the band's priorities lie. Immediately, Black Lips launched into "Family Tree" and "Modern Art," the first two songs on 2011's Arabia Mountain. Bassist Jared Swilley bounced in time with the music like a human metronome; he and Saint Pé seemed to be bursting with energy, while rhythm guitarist Cole Alexander looked characteristically spaced out, as though he had just been beamed onto the stage from another world. After only two songs, Saint Pé asked that Alexander's guitar be cut out of his monitor altogether. Not to say Alexander was playing particularly poorly, but it did seem as though he needed a couple songs to shake off the day's cobwebs.
"Boys in the Wood," the first single from the band's latest effort, Underneath the Rainbow, was plagued with equipment difficulties. It was hard to make out from my vantage point, but there seemed to be a problem with the drums -- the band's members were all looking around at each other during the second chorus, clearly aware that something was awry, while stage techs worked to solve the problem.
The thing is, the crowd at Firebird didn't give a shit how it sounded. This was pure rock & roll, just as Saint Pé had promised. The audience whipped beer cans across the venue and sang along, oblivious -- or at the least completely unconcerned -- to technical difficulties.
"All of our stuff is broken," Swilley explained after a few tracks. "We've been on tour for three months. That's the easiest explanation."
One song later, as if on cue, Swilley held up a freshly broken cable for the crowd to see. "We lost the center monitor cable," he said. "It's not my fault! I'm not paying for it." Barely a second passed before he laughed and said, "All right, I guess I could."
In the meantime Alexander repeatedly played a sample over the PA that sounded like a puma. "That's a wildcat!" he exclaimed with glee. The crowd laughed and the band launched into "Go Out and Get It."
Continue to page two for more of our review.
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