The Black Angels’ album Passover was one of my favorites from last year, and they also put on a great live show last summer at the Empty Bottle, opening for the Pink Mountaintops. I missed seeing the Black Angels recently in their hometown, Austin, Texas, when I was there for SXSW, so I couldn’t miss their return visit to Chicago. It was a heavy, intense show, with those fuzzy guitar riffs, pounding drums and a groovy groove that seemed to go on all night. The band members sort of wander around the stage, with a very casual attitude. The encore was the strongest part of the set, including a cover of “I Wanna Be Your Dog.” I enjoyed the opening set by Vietnam, too, though I’m less familiar with their music. I heard some Velvet Underground-style drones and noisy solos from these shaggy Brooklynites.
Photographically speaking, it was a frustrating evening. As usual for the Empty Bottle, it was about as bright as the inside of a closet. And to top things off, my special lens for low-light settings is malfunctioning (a stuck focus ring), so it wasn’t easy to get shots that were in focus and light enough to use. I was a little bit more creative than usual in Photoshop…
See my photos of the Black Angels and Vietnam.
Black Mountain’s self-titled CD was one of my favorites in 2005. This year, I discovered Pink Mountaintops, sort of an alter ego of Black Mountain. Both bands are led by Stephen McBean, and both bands are dominated by his great groove guitar riffs and his vocals, which seem to me to have a certain hippy/slacker vibe. Pink Mountaintops is not as heavy as Black Mountain, but it’s not exactly a lite-rock version of that band. I’ve yet to hear the first album by Pink Mountaintops (Jessica Hopper wrote an illuminating commentary on both of the band’s records in the Chicago Reader, and now I’m eager to hear that first record). The new one is very good, though, and this concert was, too.
Given the fact that this band is mostly Stephen McBean (or so it seems), it was interesting to see so many musicians crowding onto the stage – seven. Plus, a number of musicians from the two opening acts got onto the stage at times, giving the whole concert a weird party-like atmosphere. McBean is reserved onstage, saying little between songs but letting his singing and guitar riffs say a lot.
SEE PHOTOS OF PINK MOUNTAINTOPS.
One of the opening acts, the Black Angels, practically stole the show. I’ve been wanting to hear this Austin band since I missed them at SXSW. What I heard tonight: intense, psychedelic guitar playing, and more than a few yelps of intensity. Great stuff. I picked up the two Black Angels CDs at the show, and after a couple of listens, the 2006 full-length Passover is sounding outstanding.
SEE PHOTOS OF THE BLACK ANGELS.
The first act of the night was Chicago’s Catfish Haven. I’ve said before that I can’t quite get into this band. I like their sound for a song or two, but then it wears thin – I think because they don’t vary their hard-strummed acoustic guitar/spastic bass/drums formula from song to song. That said, I can hear some good songwriting going on in there, and the spastic bass playing was more spastic than ever.
SEE PHOTOS OF CATFISH HAVEN.