The Black Angels W/ Black Mountain Belly Up Tavern 11.23.10 Keith Boyd pics by Eric Nielsen
It was a good night for bad vibes at the Belly Up. This "Double Black" bill of Black Mountain and The Black Angels was, from the get go, a concept drenched in pot cloud basement atmospherics. The reality of said concept was a study in contrasts. Openers, The Black Angels, owned this evening. With wave upon wave of tremolo-soaked guitar riffs and thudding drum/bass rhythms, The Angels proved to be every inch of what their records promise. They are an ungodly stepchild made of equal parts Doors, Velvet Underground, 13th Floor Elevators and a dash of Creedence Clearwater Revival. Those parts might lead you to think it would sound like some sort of retro/oldies type of deal and nothing could be further from the truth. In fact what you get is a grooved out of body wash of head-nodding goodness. If said grooves never stray too far from certain parameters, that's sort of the point. The Black Angels have found a place in sound to explore a bad-assed textural witchcraft and they do it with relish. Using row upon row of stomp boxes, hollow-body basses and guitars and vintage keyboards they found the beginning of their set a slight challenge to dial in sonically and
the lead singer got a nasty shock from his microphone. These issues were soon solved however and the band played a blessedly long set that included material from all of their releases. When I said they owned the night, I meant just that. Headliners, Black Mountain simply didn't make it happen. On paper the band seems destined to win you over. They are described as a rocking,
Hippie-collective, freewheeling mashup rooted in 70's Rock and they are, sort of. Live, the tunes just didn't seem to ever pack that punch that is required to make the listener swoon. It was like a meal made of the best ingredients that when put together comes out bland and tame. Tame is the overriding sentiment that is left and that is, I'm sure, not what the band strives for. Throughout the show the Belly Up provided its usual high level of comfort, sound and atmosphere. Besides the quality venue what always thrills me about a show at the Belly Up is the chance to drive home along the magickal California coast with the rolling Pacific out the window. This night it was it was filled with the sound of wind, the silver moon and thoughts of what a devastatingly dark tapestry The Black Angels wove.