The Black Angels

By James Manning

Artist:  The Black Angels

Date / Venue:  June 19th, Bodega, Wellington

The ringing in my ear has reached a point of no return, and my eyes are still with the entrancing visual show, caught somewhere between the strobe lights dancing throughout the crowd, and that large screen constantly churning in sync with the music, presenting geometric coloured patterns and the occasional semi-nude model of a pop-art past. The Black Angels at Bodega was a concert that delivered again and again.

Three hours earlier Alex Mass and his Texan Psychedelic cohorts stepped onto the stage to a crowd covering from rainy skies on this wet Wednesday. Local up-and comers Sunken Seas played prior, yet cannot be reported on as this storyteller was attending to other things (and consuming them, too).

Composed to a level of inebriation only fitting for what we all expected - a bloody stunning psychedelic event - we crept our way through the packed venue and settled just before the front of the crowd. A short greeting by Alex, and we're off into a two-hour onslaught of mind-bending audio and visual.

Opening with a strong one-two hit of 'Vikings' from 2008's Directions To See A Ghost and 'I Hear Colours'from this year's Indigo Meadow, The Black Angels' display a sound much louder and tighter than on record, with heavy feedback pinched from shoegaze and drone.

Each member seemed to be possessed by their respective instrument(s), their movements orchestrated by the notes played, grooving slowly with the thick wall of sound, and it all combined to create an agile beast manoeuvring its way through haunting terrain.

'Don't Play With Guns' and crowd favourite 'Entrance Song', gave the light show a warm up, only to be fully explored on 'Evil Things'. Lead guitarist Christian Bland came alive during this guitar solo, drilling its way overtop with a flurry of multi-coloured lights shining on the crowd.

The hits kept coming with 'You're Mine', 'Telephone', 'Indigo Meadow', 'The Sniper', 'Haunting at 1300 McKiney', and we were even treated to 'Black Grease' from their 2006 release Passover, and 'Young Man Dead' - a contribution to the Coen brothers' film No Country For Old Men.

'Bad Vibrations' came right near the end and sent many a crowd member into equal fits of head-banging ecstasy and feel-good subtle shuffling; but most just couldn't avert their gaze from a band expertly gelled in their musicianship.

When they left stage I heard someone yell "PLAY MORE JAMS", a request delivered as Alex and bass playerKyle Hunt returned for the encore with the sombre 'Black Isn't Black'. Beginning as a restrained vocal and bass duet, the tension grew, and each member returned to the stage and set forth into a long jam, with powerhouse drummer Stephanie Bailey truly a siren not to be messed with behind that kit.

At some stage it morphed into an entirely different entity, and before we knew it The Dixie Cups' 'Chapel of Love' weaved its way in for a psych-frenzy cover. "Going to the chapel of love" sung by Alex is the last thing I remember, and with the feedback slowly fizzling out and lightshow fading away, we snapped out of the trance, bewildered and satisfied. An incredible gig.