I imagine Quentin Tarrentino listens to the Black Angels. The band captures a style of music long dead in a fresh viable way. I’m not sure if they make the old new or just transport me back in time. But as most things, memories are better than reality and I’m sure the reality of the Black Angels far surpasses their predecessors. I can’t believe the only thing I misspelled so far is Tarrentino. But no matter, I spelled it the same way both times so I am consistent.
I didn’t do any research on the bands because I wanted to go in cold and be able to convey my experience to you sans expectations so you won’t get a lot of basic boring info here except that their name comes from a Velvet Underground song. You know what? Go google yourself!
As I arrived at Williamsburg Hall of Music 15 minutes before showtime I couldn’t believe it was sold out. But it filled quickly during opener and was definitely SRO before headliner. Now I can see why these guys are booked almost every night through April and May. There was retro vibe from black and white wavy back drop and remake radio hits with fading beer in plastic. Crowd of misfits and wanna be trendoids. Hoodies, hat and glasses crowd. SMS and K2. Anyone with something to do was on the phone. “I’m a model until I start drinking”. On cue like a soundtrack ‘Just dropped in to see what condition my condition was in’ blared from the loud speakers.
The Suuns took the stage first. Their gear was pawn shop reject. Like kids in the basement switching instruments in search of success with their next attempt they made whale noises and scratchy analog feedback from crappy Kay guitar. I have made this kind of music. I was asked to stop. This was music for whiners, 90’s anti-pop wave. It was however sonically interesting with sincere vocals and tight offbeat percussion. Their set was impassioned and clueless. Channeling Bowie without the sense of style or economy. The crowd sort of enjoyed it, milling, and weaving uncomfortably more than dancing. Working a foot to foot shift in an attempt to anticipate the progression change that was not forthcoming.
The Black Angels are a Psychedelic band from Texas and that is that. As no-nonsense as Texas and as psychedelic as heyday Haight. Not much on style, except for the stage lined with PBRs, Boleyn’s Root, real vintage Fender Twins, Ampeg, Gretsch, Rickenbacker and Hofner. Just shut up and play. Drummer was the only member I could honestly say had showered that day but then she’s a girl. Damn could she lay down a beefy beatdown beat accompanied at times by bass player on his own floor tom. They opened with Bloodhounds and covered many songs including, Manipulation, River of Blood, Bad vibrations and The Haunting. Claps, hoots and cheers greet the opening strains of each song. Really they play as a band with o one stepping out front to take control. Even lead singer, Christian, seems hesitant in his frontman role.
Every song seems to take off and swirl above us with only bass and drums bouncing back to earth and touching only briefly like a yo-yo on a trampoline. The Turtles with testicles. Tribal and ignorant like a jungle bird exhibit or an amusement park African Queen ride. The constant pulse quickening strobe lights illuminated the tantric tighted skirted chicks dancing. Deafening and relentless. Cavernous reverb jangling hollow bodies reminiscent of ‘64 or 6 or 8. Airplane with Joe Cocker. Stoner Country Joe electric folk perfected. Spooky as the Doors and as powerfully tuneful as the Byrds, It swelled like Hot Tuna.
I had left this type of music behind and for good reason. It was tired. It had been one and only old people listened to it. Discarded like a calliope of steel drums falling off a truck. But this was calculated. It was percolating. The recipes smacked just short of sting. It wrapped me and lulled me with an awesome sense of fear and disproportion. A minor ebb began 25 minutes in as the hypnotic droning grew to a volume intolerable for some.
As many oldsters as kids in the crowd. I really wanted to jump on a board in front of a green screen and watusi like in the old movies. The smell of patchouli and colitis hung in the air. As the frenzy continued and the body heat rose, it kindled a smell that reminded me summer is on its way. It was hard not to dance in place everyone was getting their groove on in their own way.
Even the Yamaha bike parked outside were historici not for the full face helmets hanging carelessly by chin straps. Santa Claus is everywhere.
Review and Photos by Peter Riot