“Illness, insanity and death are the black angels that kept watch over my cradle and accompanied me all my life.” -The Velvet Underground.
Visualize a cloudy charcoal sky suspended over you as you are being thrown into a portal of disillusionment, no concept of time or space, a world of abstraction. You burst into a tunnel of spiraling, mind-bending colors bleeding together while penetrating into the unknown and entering into foreign land. The Black Angels gave the audience a chance to alter their perceptions and “break on through to the other side.” The psychedelic rock band hails from Austin, Texas and rolled back into town with Spindrift (a spaghetti western inspired rock band dressed like cowboys and Native Americans chanting and parading around stage in tribal, ceremonial fashion) and Dead Meadow (a three-piece band heavily influenced by Jimi Hendrix and Led Zeppelin riffs) at Headliners Hall last Friday, Oct. 21, for an astounding performance. It was the band’s first return to Louisville since their canceled show last year with Black Mountain, due to lead guitarist/vocalist Alex Maas having suffered from a hernia. In a room full of fluorescent color, you can almost picture Andy Warhol sitting across the room glaring you down through a world of kaleidoscopic images as the Angels begin their show with “You on the Run,” a heavy trance of guitar waves commenced by the scream of Alex Maas to begin the song, followed by a steady drum beat and tambourine tapping as the “oohs” and “ahhs” poured in from the crowd bewildered from the acid-wave sound.
“Yellow, yellow was her hair, orange sunburst red hot glare,” the Angels whisper into your ear an eerie ritualistic tune about a manipulative woman. Alex Maas speaks often of these dominant type of women as a reoccurring theme. Their words conveyed vivid, war-like images in songs such as “Young Men Dead” and “The Sniper at the Gates of Heaven” paired with silhouettes of soldiers running across the hills as warplanes dropped bombs against the surreal skies. The wondering eyes lurked behind the American flag and questions of life and death are depicted in relation to the Vietnam War. “Fire from the hills pick up speed and let’s go, Fire for real yeah shoot to kill with no aim.” The Black Angels take you on an adventure into unknown territory influenced from a generation of groovy, psychedelic rock bands like Jefferson Airplane and The Velvet Underground. While a lot of their musical influence stems from early 1960s and ’70s rock n’ roll, they can also be related to neo-progressive rock bands like Black Mountain and The 13th Floor Elevators. They perform a different set list for every city they hit, providing their audience with an authentic experience. The Black Angels were nothing short of amazing, captivating their audience and encouraging you to become connected with your unconscious mind.
Photos: Lara Kinne/The Louisville Cardinal