I went to see a show with Paul and Susan last night. The Black Angels, a band from Austin, Texas, were playing at the Doug Fir Lounge. I didn’t know anything about the group going in — hadn’t heard a single song — but after the concert, I’m a convert. These guys rock.

Imagine James, Love and Rockets, and The Doors blended together and transported to 2007, and you might have some idea of The Black Angels sound. I suppose it’s easier to just post a video:

The Black Angels — “Black Grease”

Here’s a live performance of the same song recorded last July.

There are no singles here. No memorable melodies. Instead there’s a wall of sounds, a rich, complex and powerful sonic wave. It’s impossible to decipher the lyrics, but so what? It’s not about the lyrics. It’s about the sound.

(Actually, I was able to find lyrics to “Black Grease”!)

Black Grease by The Black Angels. You’re a storm. You’re so emotional, moody and controlled, sly and involved. You’re alright. You come to me in times. You make me realize I’m not the kindest guy, but I give give give give. I give what I can give. So just give give give give. Give me what you have, dear. Slow, you kept me in that storm. You showed me things galore, made me want much more. And now denied the things I saw inside (the things I saw inside) is what really caught my eye. And you give give give give, give what you can. And I’ll live live live live, live while I can, dear. You’re so surprised. You see me put up fights. You hear me realize. You come along for rides. You’re just so kind: the eagle with red wine. You made me see that bright eye between me and time to just kill kill kill kill. You kill what you can. And you kill kill kill kill anything you want.

This isn’t music that I normally identify with. I’m more of an ABBA Euro-pop kind of guy. But trust me: I can go for the deep, soul-stirring thrum of a band like The Black Angels. This is quality stuff. YouTube has several videos of the band’s live performances, such as:

The Black Angels — “First Vietnamese War”

Some bands are dull in person — you might as well have stayed home and listened to the record. The Black Angels were exciting, though, despite the fact they barely acknowledged the crowd. (And despite the fact that a couple of the members seemed completely wasted.) There are six members to the group (seven for one song), and they swap instruments back and forth. The percussionist becomes the drummer becomes the guitar player, etc. One of their main instruments is a “drone machine“.

In this video, the regular drummer is playing guitar center stage.

The Black Angels — “Snake in the Grass”

In that previous video, did you notice the video of lava projected behind the band? Last night while the band played, old grade school movies (including this one) were projected onto the stage. (I was standing just below the film projectors.) One film was about Native Americans, one about astronauts, one about health and hygiene, and one about geology. It was strange, but effective.

The Black Angels — “Sniper at the Gates of Heaven”

The band’s official site has more information, including some free downloads. The Internet Archive has a a few Black Angels concert recordings. Finally, here’s a recording from the band’s last appearance at The Doug Fir in July. Unfortunately, this video doesn’t capture the sheer wall of sound the band can produce:

The Black Angels — “Better Off Alone”

p.s. Despite lousy service, I liked the restaurant at The Doug Fir. The food was reasonably priced (and tasty), and the decor is awesome: a blend of Jetsons-style early-60s modernism and good old-fashioned Pacific Northwest log cabin. It sounds strange, but it works. It was fun to chat with Paul and Susan, killing two hours before the band took the stage at 11pm.

One Reply to “Concert Review: The Black Angels at The Doug Fir”

  1. Amy Jo says:

    I recommend sitting outside by the gas-fired fire while sipping a cocktail. We did that while waiting for Erin McKeown to take the stage and it was lovely.

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