The Black Angels and their Psych Affair
It ain’t easy to find a band these days that knows how to re-create the much adored 60s psychedelic groove without looking a bit pathetic while trying. A countless number of bands aspire to it but unfortunately psychedelic rock doesn’t just magically happen because you’re wearing a Velvet Underground tshirt.
However since their 2006 debut’s album, Passover, Austin’s Black Angels manage to do just that and they pull it off nicely if not perfectly. They know the formula well and they obviously enjoy it a lot since they have been repeating it for the past four albums, culminating with their latest studio effort: Indigo Meadow. Afterall it’s not for nothing if they’re considered the authority for modern psych rock: they deserve the title. With a sound saturated of reverby and trippy riffs, a flair for dark lyrics and a singer who looks like a trucker but sounds like Jefferson Airplane’s Grace Slick, it’s safe to say that if you enjoy getting high while listening to The Doors, there’s a good chance that you will enjoy getting high on the Black Angels.
Some may criticize the repetitiveness of their tracks and I myself find the vocal melodies a tad monotonous, but all in all Black Angels is a band who knows how to play and knows exactly where it wants to go through its music. So how about their live performances? Well, after hearing raving reviews of their concerts by my 60s rock loving friends, I had the opportunity to see the Austin quartet (actually now expanded to a quintet) at the Trianon in Paris, a beautiful old theatre/concert hall with an always impeccable sound and a trippy gothic look perfect for the occasion.
The band delivers from the beginning, the sound is great and the psych vibe is further reinforced by the hypnotic light show that sucks you in further down the hole. Like I said, the Black Angels sure love their psychedelia and know how to generate it in an entrancing way. BUT (and this is where I wish this was not 2013 and I was not in Paris) after a few tracks I realize that this is not the kind of gig that you want to see sober. And when I say sober, I mean not stoned. And – fuck me- i wasn’t! Because unfortunately this is not Colorado where I can just bring my weed portable vaporizer to my trippy music gig. This is Paris, France, where lighting up a spliff in a concert hall is considered the highest of crimes, which, as you can imagine ruins the whole psych experience. Afterall would the Woodstock years have been the same if not for the ready availability of non-regulated high quality grass? But being way too lucid for the occasion, I have to say that after 40 minutes or so I got a bit bored of the sound, interesting at first but kind of redundant after a while. Now, if you are like my friends, who came more prepared and dropped some cheap but fun pills with their 10 euros pints of beer, you are definetely going to have a great time during this type of gig.
But yeah, it’s still an engaging and solid live performance compared to many boring ones, and it does live up to the great reviews that i heard in the past. Also, I really feel, and I might be biased because I am a chick (and a drummer) , that the star of the night is drummer Stephanie Bailey who behind her blonde hairs and a tiny frame, is a little force of nature! She hits the drums with no mercy from beignning to end and even though her eyes are stuck on her kit and you can barely see her face, she oozes a special blend of coolness and class that really makes her stand out. Her sound is hypnotically steady, non-pretentious but hard and with a tribal feel, almost animalistic, which I think provides most of that psych groove that we all like in the Black Angels.
The best part of the night? The much awaited encore where we see the introduction of a sitar, awesomely executed, for a couple of very hypnotic tracks. Very trippy, very Beatlesy, Ravi Shankar would be proud.
So yeah, to summarize, it was definitely money and time well spent even though it got slower at the end. I guess what I am saying is that, like many, I dig this brand of psych rock and the Black Angels certainly know how to deliver an entartaining and mesmerizing performance, but if you happen to go to one of their gigs and want to be sure to maximize the experience, don’t be a fool and bring your own drugs!