Gig Review: The Black Angels, Suuns, Bowery Ballroom, NYC, 4/8/11

Where do you go when heaven calls you? What do you do? Who do you turn to?” These are just a few questions that are asked by The Black Angels in a cut off of their 2006 debut, “Passover” called “The Sniper At The Gates of Heaven”. Luckily, I have answers. I go to a Black Angels gig. I zone out. And I turn to them.

The Black Angels

The Black Angels seem to enjoy New York City and the people that helped sell out the Bowery Ballroom on this Friday night seemed to give the love right back in spades.

Marking their fifth appearance in this wonderful city in support of their latest, 2010’s “Phosphene Dream“, but the first in a headlining capacity, The Black Angels ,along with opening noise quintet, Suuns, ripped the roof off of the Bowery Ballroom on this Friday night and played sets that transcended their respective genres. The mood in the crowd was jovial and spirits were high for a set that saw a band I  have come to love play almost every song in their catalog that I wanted to  hear as well as chucking a few surprises my way.


Leading the charge promptly at 10pm was Montreal’s Suuns (pronounced Soons) who brought their meld of noise, psychedelia, electronic, and pretty much any other genre you can mix into the stew which ended up being a very fulfilling opening set. I came into the night wholly unfamiliar with their catalog bar one video I watched on Youtube after the initial gig announcements. Suuns tore through a set comprised mostly of tracks off of their 2010 debut record entitled “Zeroes QC”. I’m unaware the significance of that title, but I greatly appreciated the band’s fortitude and “into it” attitude. It didn’t hurt that the two girls positioned at my right and left at the front of the stage were also heavily into it and their exuberance brushed off on me very easily. Lead guitarist/vocalist Ben Shemie was officially “havin it” on this night and helped lead the rest of his bandmates tear through a set that was over quickly, but not underappreciated.

At last, it was time for the main event. Austin, TX’s newest heroes and in my opinion, the current flag bearers of the psychedelic scene, The Black Angels. As a fan, I knew what to expect leading into their show. I knew to listen for the strains of The Beach Boys’ seminal classic, “Good Vibrations”, as it is appropriately the lead-in to their opening number off of Phosphene Dream, “Bad Vibrations”. This was one of the most fitting segues in regards to the use of “walk-on” music that I’ve seen in recent years. Once singer Alex Maas hit the stage, it was time to get down to business.

The Black Angels

The Angels ripped through a setlist of around 16 or so  songs and not one of them went down in any way other than spectacularly. Positioned right underneath Alex for most the night, I was able to get a sense of his performance strategy. He throws himself head first into the music and like a new wave Jim Morrison, wraps his silky smooth vocals around a pure psychedelic vision. On the back end, Stephanie Bailey gives me new appreciation for her excellent drumming skills, along with Nate Ryan and Kyle Hunt playing various instruments and complementing lead guitarist Christian Bland‘s absolutely scintillating guitar that shook the entire building while the smell of sweet sickly cannabis smoke wafted all around me. It was a wonderful atmosphere.

The setlist was a great overview of The Black Angels absolute dominance in their current genre. The band played songs ranging their entire catalog, including songs I would consider to be rarities, like “Surf City (Revisited)” and a track  on the Phosphene Dream Deluxe Edition that I have come to love entitled “My Boat Is Sinking“. I love it when bands really mix things up and it helps a neophyte appreciate their depth of catalogue. I am no Angels neophyte, but I can see how one would be able to fall for this band quickly after a set like this.

The Black Angels’ set was over quickly following a short encore that ended with “You In Color”, which was a fitting close to an absolutely perfect way to spend a Friday night. This is a band that has a lot of their shoulders in respects to psychedelic rock right now. They are definitely up to the task and I cannot wait until I see them again. Don’t miss em.

The band also played on Saturday night at the Music Hall of Williamsburg over in Brooklyn, which I also attended. I will be writing a review of that for another blog, so feel free to hit me up for a link if you interested once its published.

Big thanks to my friend Themis who attended the gig with me and taped this performance of “My Boat Is Sinking” for posterity.

The Black Angels:  10/10

Suuns: 8/10

There are more pics available on my Flickr, which is accessible via the left pane.



One Response

  1. I designed and unofficial poster for this show. Check it out at Gig Posters:

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