Black Angels, Darker My Love, Lower Heaven Live Review

June 20, 2008

I was curious about what this show would be like because all the bands on the bill occupy the relatively narrow niche of neo-psych rock, which as far as I can tell has a pretty well established set of conventions in place. I was worried that with the amount of time separating the bands from their sonic ancestors that there would be a lack of personal flair or differentiation between the acts as they worried about maintaining a feeling from forty years ago. I needn’t have. While all three bands could definitely be described as “of the same school,” there was enough variation in their approach that they were easily distinguishable and brought a sense of personality and identity to their music.

The early showtime was an unfortunate break for openers Lower Heaven, who had to play what felt like a nearly empty house. This type of spacey, wandering music plays better in a believable night setting when distinctions start to blur, which is hard to manage when the audience has at best just finished eating dinner. I wouldn’t have been surprised if some of the audience had just woken up for the show. Lower Heaven seemed unaffected by the low attendance and, more than anything, appeared completely oblivious that there was anyone there at all. Lower Heaven kind of snuck up on me. I can’t say exactly when they got on-stage, they were just there all of a sudden, playing a haunting song that slowly lured me in. Of the three bands they seemed the most modern sonically and stood out in part due to their use of a harp, which helped to lighten up their sound and lay gently on top of their driving bass and percussion.

Darker My Love’s set should make the Black Angels think twice the next time they choose an opening act. For my money, Darker My Love ran away with the show. One of the best things about this show was that each band put time and thought into the structure of their set to take the audience on the grandest trip possible. Darker My Love’s set was especially well constructed with each step logically leading to the next. DML had enough variation in their songs that they could create one huge, set-length song with many movements that could build and wind back on itself before culminating in what I would have to describe as a two-song joint finale. Whether because of the way the setlist was planned or because they just got more comfortable and hit their stride, Darker My Love also got noticeably better as the set went on. Both vocalists really broke out and their harmonies were spot on, Will Canzoneri played his clavinet like bongos, and at one point I think drummer Andrew Granelli was playing his drums with shakers. The whole thing was a blast to watch which the Black Angels just couldn’t quite top for me.

Although I said the bands were easily distinguishable from each other, The Black Angels were hard to distinguish from themselves. It seems that the Angels put their set together with the same goal in mind of creating one larger wave of sound but their songs were just too similar to allow for the type of large scale movements that Darker My Love achieved. That’s not to say they didn’t put on a good show though. Their live show is definitely a step above their album experience. This type of music experiences a huge boost from being heard at eardrum busting volume in a dark and smoke filled room backed by vintage footage of Olympic competitions, drug medleys and military marches. The Black Angels certainly delivered that psychedelic feeling and the echoes and fuzzed out guitars almost had me convinced that I’d been drinking out of the blue cups for a minute. Watching the band though, I couldn’t help but feel that something wasn’t exactly right. They seemed to be poised to strike but never did, full of potential energy that they just weren’t harnessing.

*note* “summer is here” on my box player is a dml track