The Black Angels Descend on Brooklyn

Written by  Published in Live Reviews Sunday, 30 October 2011 17:42

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Alex Maas of The Black Angels

Last night was Halloween for many people, and for others, just the start of Halloween weekend. NYC was also surprised with an unseasonal amount of snow and icy rain, but a little bit of bad weather never kept the undead and ghoulish from walking the streets and heading to an appropriately dark and mind-expanding show with Golden Animals, Spindrift, and The Black Angels at Music Hall of Williamsburg.

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Tommy Eisner of Golden Animals

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Linda Beecroft of Golden Animals

The duo of guitarist/vocalist Tommy Eisner and drummer Linda Beecroft, known as Golden Animals, have roots in Baltimore and Sweden (respectively) and make bluesy riffs with rock n’ roll swagger. Beecroft is especially expressive on the drums, with extra flourishes and hair tossing. She looked like she was straight out of the 70s, while Eisner made a Crosby sweater look cool.

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Kirpatrick Thomas of Spindrift

Spindrift came out looking like southwestern apparitions from Dia de los Muertos past, dragged up from the desert to form a band of spaghetti-western influenced psych rockers. Singer/songwriter/guitarist Kirpatrick Thomas had ghoulish black and white face paint with full southwestern getup, Sasha Vallely-Certik was the cowgirl on vocals, mellosonic, and Native American flutes, and drummer James Acton also looked like he was straight out of the wild west. Bass/baritone guitarist Henry Evans looked a little more like he had just escaped from the psych ward with his giant black industrial overcoat, and the only one who didn’t follow the western wardrobe theme, along Lucas Dawson on pedal steel, who fit right in with the crowd in his leather jacket.

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Henry Evans

Halloween costumes (were they costumes?) aside, they were all extremely solid musicians. They got the spooky other-worldy LSD trip of the night started with their callbacks to Native American storytelling and cowboy showdowns in their music, which felt like it could have been the soundtrack to a number of similarly themed movies. Their songs had minimal lyrics, besides the most enthusiastically unsettling shouting, like war cries for an old-fashioned dual.

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The Black Angels weren’t dressed up, but they didn’t need to be anything different from what they are every day – a group of musicians whose songs transcend the boundaries of vertical thinking, instead opening musical portals into linear mind expanding. Basically, even if you’re totally broke you can go on a trip with The Black Angels. You won’t be able to verbalize exactly what happened, but it will be an experience you won’t forget. I think it’s safe to say the The Black Angels’ psychedelic experimentalism transported the Brooklyn crowd last night, with the help of the lighting projections that created stark shadows of the band members’ silhouettes against a colorful backdrop, making them appear to be playing with their ghost doubles. Singer Alex Maas played a vintage Farfisa organ, adding to the echoing eeriness of the atmosphere they expertly created, along with other elements that felt like the past was merging with the present. Lead guitarist Christian Bland often started off the songs with his bold, reverb-soaked  riffs, such as “Haunting at 1300 McKinley” and “Young Men Dead,” two songs especially perfect for the Halloween festivities. There were many people in the crowd who were dressed up for the occasion, but for most people, it was a perfect opportunity to come out looking like who they really are.

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Kyle Hunt

For the encore, Maas came out for a solo acoustic number, before being joined by the full band again. However, before playing anything else, they made sure to prompt the crowd to sing happy birthday to Spindrift’s Kirpatrick Thomas. Then the band dove into another handful of songs before leaving the crowd cheering with hands up, because everyone in the room had probably just experienced the best peyote trip possible in the city.

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Christian Bland

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The Black Angels play again tonight and Halloween night at Music Hall of Williamsburg before heading south. Spindrift joins them tonight before taking off on their own route leading to the west coast. Golden Animals look like they’re laying low for a while so they can finish a record. Follow them on Facebook for updates.

Last modified on Monday, 31 October 2011 15:15
Kelly Knapp

I grew up listening to the music my parents listened to. My mom gave me some of her “Golden Oldies” cassette tapes, and I could sit in my room for hours harmonizing with The Ronettes, and staring at Del Shannon, who I thought was a total stud in his tiny black and white photo on the glossy fold-out insert. I listened to Willie Nelson because my Dad admired him so much, and I wanted to understand what was so great about him too. My first concert wasn’t a huge life changer; I saw Inner Circle at a local Jambalaya festival in Central Florida. Their biggest hit was “Bad Boys,” the theme song to COPS. If anything, that concert should have traumatized me. But, at the time I had no comprehension of any crassness. I just remember the guitarist making eye contact with me and smiling, and feeling excitement over having a brief connection with someone who was making me dance.

It’s the same thing with listening to music with words in another language. It’s not necessary to understand words or literal meanings. It’s the way the melodies and rhythms evoke feeling. It’s like that saying about art, how you may not be able to explain it, but you know it when you see it. I can’t always describe music (although obviously, I sure as hell try to), but I know what I like when I feel it, and I think those who can evoke that feeling deserve to be acknowledged for it. That’s what I want to describe. That’s what I want to share.

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