We Went There: The Black Angels & The Black Lips at First Ave
It was a Friday night and the crowd at First Avenue in Minneapolis was well-lubricated with discounted Surly beer because the local brewer was celebrating their new +1 beer that they created in honor of the venue. Not that the lineup needed any extra juice, but let’s just say it didn’t seem to hurt. The reason for the festivities (other than drinking beer) was a great double bill of The Black Angels and The Black Lips.
Staring the night was the decidedly more subdued The Black Lips, a raucous garage-punk group out of Georgia who have made a name for themselves over the years with their vintage tunes and explosive live shows. The songs were still there, in fact their new stuff is as well-rounded and tight of songwriting as I think they’ve ever done, but the flame of youthful discontent was not burning nearly as bright. There were feigns to the past (spitting up in the air and catching up, some moderate crashing around the stage), but overall it felt like Frank the Tank was sipping a rose at a dinner party compared to past debauchery (my favorite was at the Varsity Theater maybe 7 or 8 years ago, when they made out with random audience members, were cannonballs on stage and burned with a true heat, all contrasted with a ornate theatre). Their set was well received, and like I said their tunes still pack a punch, especially their country-tinged material that shows their songwriting depth, but I was left missing a little bit of the “old days.”
Headlining the next were The Black Angels, who I have appreciated for many years, but had never seen them live Friday night. In hindsight that decision was a mistake. The five piece band commanded the Mainroom stage, pounding out their heady version of psych rock. The band dipped into their impressive back catalog to start the set, and ended up mixing in material from throughout their career and up to last year’s solid Death Song. The band found that sweet spot of locking into a groove yet feeling like their music was floating in a hazy ether. The songs are both abstract yet feel like they are being drilled into your head with militant precision. I’ve spent many years liking all of what I’ve heard from the band, but never diving deeper into their work. That has changed since seeing their powerful set Friday night. The group are one of the bands that it is clear have figured out how to capture and distill their swirling, pounding sound even when outside of the studio, and the hypnotic noise — along with amazing visuals soaking the stage in colors and shapes — created on of the more compelling and enjoyable Mainroom shows I have seen a while. Even without discounted, high ABV beer.
See a full photo set from the night HERE.