Black Lips with King Khan and the BBQ Show
September 19th, 2014
Logan Square Auditorium, Chicago, IL
Punk shows are timelessly great. You usually get at least three acts, each playing tons of songs (thanks to their 2-3 minute run times), and non-stop energy from the crowd for very little money. We caught the Southern garage punks Black Lips, King Khan in punk rock duo form with the BBQ Show, and a solid opener in Heavy Times for just $18 at the perfect venue for a punk show, Logan Square Auditorium. The venue is primarily a ballet studio, but it feels like half-high school gymnasium half-ballroom, thus making a very conducive spot for a punk show. All three bands showed their stripes in what turned into a killer Friday night.
Chicago-based Heavy Times opened the set with what they self-describe as psychic punk music. What that really accounts to is straight-ahead punk with some metal and psychedelic rock tendencies. The rhythm guitar player was wearing a Parquet Courts t-shirt, which was appropriate since the band showed off their diverse set of songs without much of an exhale, constantly propelling their set along like Parquet Courts would. The gigantic bassist stole the show taking center stage and boasting plenty of attitude, which just proves the theory that bassists and drummers are always better when they come in extra-large.
King Khan and the BBQ Show was the biggest surprise to me, since they came out in rock ‘n’ roll duo form unlike the Shrines who are a much larger, showier band. King Khan, adorned in a cape and mask letting his belly hang out, came out the gate saying “rock ‘n’ roll is still alive” while busting through a bunch of classic rock riffs from Chuck Berry to Velvet Underground with King Khan being the showman and bandmate Mark Sultan (who is the BBQ in King Khan and the BBQ Show) sitting and flailing on rhythm guitar and stomping the kick drum non-stop through the show. The band is really a doo-wop and early rock ‘n’ roll outfit (think the Four Seasons and Chuck Berry as interpreted by the Stooges) and absolutely threw the crowd into a frenzy. King Khan is the recognizable face here, but BBQ felt very much like the MVP of this particular show, with constant headshaking and foot stomping, a surprisingly pure doo-wop voice, and some great stage banter.
Also worth noting was the security guards for this show, who were among the most intimidating I have ever seen. They were some huge dudes and both look like they have never had a good day in their lives just looking to pick a fight. However, when people started to running on stage, the beefy security guards turned out to be completely useless and didn’t fend a single person offstage. It was so surprising considering these guys looked like they were waiting for any opportunity to kill someone with their barehands, but I digress.
The Black Lips cleaned up as usual, even if they have toned down their wild stage antics a bit over the years. It has to be hard being a band known for your rebellion and defiance over 10 years and 7 albums into your career, but Black Lips have kept up their rowdy spirit quite well. If you aren’t familiar with the Black Lips, they are essentially what the Ramones would be if they grew up in the Bible Belt instead of New York. The Lips crudely and intelligently satire Southern culture: the false religiosity, the masculinity, and other traps of the Southern and (arguably American) lifestyle. They do it all through a really intelligent and brash pop punk sound. Thanks to the help of various quality producers from Mark Ronson to Patrick Carney of the Black Keys, the band has made plenty of extensions of their sound with each new album, making their live show more diverse than ever. Part of their set played like a straight ahead punk show, others played like a Southern bar band, and others played like a noise rock band.
The two biggest highlights and the two times I was afraid the building would be torn down were “Bad Kids” and “Oh Katrina”. Both songs off their best album Good Bad Not Evil in addition to “Boys in the Woods” were a clear cut above the rest in energy and audience response. The band encored with three Almighty Defenders songs (the Black Lips gospel-rock farce side project with King Khan) for the encore, bringing King Khan and BBQ on stage for the three songs. However, these were surprisingly lower in energy and a little bit of a letdown than the rest of the Black Lips set.
As King Khan refrained, rock ‘n’ roll will remain alive and well as long as the Lips and Khan are still around. They are clearly carrying the garage rock torch as well as anyone.