The Black Angels Show Review

BA

Venue: The Bluebird Theater

Location: Denver, Colorado

Date: 12/30/12

Inebriation Level: Soberish

“What a show.” That’s what I said after a two-hour psychedelic sonic assault that exasperated the effects of some sort of flu-like bug. In the end, only the music matters, or something inspirational like that.

I’d tried to catch The Black Angels a year before, not thinking anyone else knew of their awesomeness. I convinced my bud Brad to accompany me to the show and in an effort to save $5, buy tickets at the door. We were of course greeted by a big “sold out” sign at the ticket office, to my utter disbelief. So we wandered across the street to a Mexican place, enjoyed Taco Tuesday, had some laughs, some margs, etc. The first show was definitely a success.

A year later, one of the premier modern bands was back in the Mile High City, and this time, I wasn’t saving $5. I promptly bought three tickets, including my special lady in the mix, and we all headed to the concert on a chilly Sunday night.

We were greeted by another “sold out” sign, and I gave myself a high-five, which always looks a bit awkward in public. We entered The Bluebird Theater, since every city has a Bluebird, and found it was a nice step up from your typical small venue. Nice design, good size, tiered levels, great acoustics, and ended up getting loud as all Hell.

Since I had skipped my pre-concert ritual of drinking in the car, my senses were sharp, and I noticed this was one of the most packed venues I’ve ever been in. On our way to the bar, my lady Anna said, “You know, all these concerts you go to have all the same looking people. They all have those thick rimmed glasses and like, beards or something.” Those are called hipsters, Anna. They also enjoy PBR, plaid clothing, and vegan menus.

We somehow weasled right up to the front, and within a half hour, the band took the stage behind The Beach Boys’ classic, “Good Vibrations.” They launched into “Young Men Dead,” one of their most bitchingest (is that a word?) songs, and man, were they loud. The tribal style drums, the fuzzed bass, the cranked guitar, and the trippy keys all added to one ruckus band. Their records don’t quite harness that same power, especially the tightly produced “Phosphene Dream.”

The band performed in front of a tapestry projecting psychedelic images, the same effect used by all the great psych bands of the 60’s. The visual element definitely enhanced the show and matched the style of music quite well. It was definitely a far out experience, especially for singer Alex Maas, who was on so many drugs, I’m not sure he knew what planet he was on. It wasn’t a problem though, since none of the band members missed a beat.

The set continued with fiery style, as they rolled through all of their well-known and loudest songs. The most impressive feat was how all of the band members passed around instruments like they were passing around joints backstage. Singer Maas had no problem slinging the bass or a guitar, as well as corralling the mass of effects on his vocals. Keyboardist Kyle Hunt rocked guitar, bass, and a set of floor toms. Most badass was Rishi Dhir slappin’ da bass, slinging the axe, and jamming the…sitar? Never have I ever seen a sitar in concert, and it was pretty, pretty, pretty cool.

Another aspect I never heard in their music was the groove. With the psychedelic effects, reverb soaked vocals, and wah-laden guitars, you forget that the basis of psych rock still is in the groove. Another part is the drone, incorporated from Indian music. They would get groovy, start droning along, and keep it going like you would expect to hear from a funk band. Only this time, the groove was like, you know, far out and stuff, man.

A lot of the power of the show came from the drums. The tribal style of drumming incorporated a lot of the toms and floor toms, giving it a bassy, boomy effect. It was especially powerful when keyboardist Hunt hopped on his own set of toms and doubled the drumline. It was kind of like that movie “Drumline,” except it didn’t suck.

The band hit all of their biggest hits, with the most powerful being “Black Grease,” “Bad Vibrations,” and “Better Off Alone.” With a new album coming out in a few months, we were graced with some new material, that to me sounds like a great new direction. The songs keep the atmospheric nature of their early work, but seem to expand on different styles and genres.

They came back from the killer set with a monster encore, including the droning and dark “Manipulation” and “You On The Run.” They left the stage with the odd “Snake On The Grass,” but as the show closed with a transcendent sitar solo, it all came together.

Definitely one of the better shows I’ve seen in awhile, and I’m telling you, my wits were much sharper than normal. It was a great way to close out 2012, and since I feel like they’re one of the more exciting bands out there, I don’t expect to miss a show for Taco Tuesday ever again, despite my love of tacos.

5/5: Legendary

5 Records

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2 Comments

  1. jeff

     /  January 9, 2013

    I know for a fact that maas doesnt do drugs. He was prolly hypmotized by the tunes.

    Reply

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