There are a lot of folks who think what put Austin on the live music map is the Texas Blues sound made famous by artists like Stevie Ray Vaughn, Steve Earle and Jerry Jeff Walker in the 70s and 80s. In reality, the psych rock movement led by Roky Erickson and the 13th Floor Elevators came first and was nationally prominent both in Central Texas and the West Coast. This is why Austin psychedelic rock revivalists, The Black Angels’ invitation to record an Austin City Limits TV (ACL TV) episode was not only appropriate but fundamental to television’s longest running music program reflecting Austin music. The fact that the band had not yet played the ACL TV stage after nine years, four studio albums and much critical acclaim both in the U.S. and overseas was not lost on producer, Terry Lickona who admitted the taping was long overdue during introductions at The Moody Theater Wednesday night.
This week at ACL TV has been one to highlight rising stars in indie music. Dawes graced the stage Sunday evening and The Black Angels finally made it on the show three days later. The dark, brooding act led by Alex Maas and Christian Bland cling to vocal reverb, dynamic, tribal percussion and fuzzy, distorted guitars interspersed with jangly riffs that define psych rock while they push the boundaries of the genre with effects-laden organ riffs, a myriad of effects pedals and manufactured sounds that add a modern twist. The Black Angels employed image-mapped projections onto four rectangular screen positioned on either side of the drum riser. The visuals were a first for an ACL TV taping. The projections lent the desired effect, bathing the studio with the trademark Austin night skyline in the background in psychedelic weirdness while the band worked their way through an entertaining 14-song setlist (see below).
The superior sound in the Moody Theater meant fans could hear minute audio details often drowned out at smaller clubs the band has played at. From Maas’ vocals to Stephanie Bailey’s dynamic drumming to the intricate riffs Bland plays on his vintage guitars, the sound clarity was amazing. The show opened with “The Sniper” and “Yellow Elevator #2” from the album “Phosphene Dream” (2010). “The Sniper” sounded like it had been tweaked a bit from the recorded version. A track from the new album, “Indigo Meadow” called “Evil Things” was next. We felt the band really hit their stride four songs into the set with “Don’t Play with Guns” which is also on the new album.
Incidentally, “Indigo Meadow” is The Black Angels most accessible album to date. While we love the group’s trademark reverb vocal effects, the variety of vocal effects and willingness to try new approaches to their sound on the new record is a welcome change. Experimentation is the hallmark of this act and hearing them continue to explore possibilities while not straying too far from their core sound makes us respect The Black Angels even more.
More set highlights included; the title track from the new record, “Indigo Meadow,” “Entrance Song” and during the three song encore, hit “Bad Vibrations.” The latter got the crowd moving beyond nodding their heads in appreciation like they did most of the show.
We found a free download for you of a live EP by The Black Angels recorded at The Fillmore in San Francisco earlier this year from Offcial.fm. It is the only currently available live recording from the group.
The band heads to Europe for an 18 date tour next month. Austin fans have a chance to catch the group at Austin City Limits Festival on October 4 and 11. The Angels are slated for an official after show at Emo’s with Joy Formidable (we recommend grabbing tickets to this one) on October 5.
The Black Angels ACL TV setlist:
Don’t Play With Guns
You on the Run
I hear Colors (Chromaesthesia)
Young Men Dead
Special thanks to April Burcham and Leslie Nichols.
Follow Greg Ackerman – Austin Concerts Examiner on Facebook, Twitter and more social sites here.
Get email notifications when Greg posts a new live music story by clicking the subscribe button near the top of this page.