Article and Image Published w/ Harp Magazine
Rochester, NY USA
October 18, 2007
by April S. Engram
The Black Angels drew the best crowd I’ve yet to be a part of at the Bug Jar, a venue where I’ve frequently had to contend with obnoxious inebriates who insist on “dancing” and colliding into me or standing four inches in front of me and wondering why I am giving them the evil eye. None of that! The audience this night was full of amicable Black Angels fans eager to witness the six piece Austin band blow us away with their fuzzed out, nostalgic, psychedelic rock…and the Angels delivered.
A good omen that this night would be an astounding one: Upon my entering the doors of the Bug Jar; a patron noticed my shoe lace loosening, falling to the floor and about to cause a spectacle of an accident. With the words, “Wait, you’re gonna kill yourself,” he knelt down and began tying my lace. How often does such an event occur in a bar? Reminds me of that insurance commercial of strangers helping their fellow man…but I’m digressing.
Members of the Black Angels were secreted about the Bug Jar but lead singer Alex Maas and guitarist Christian Bland decided to enjoy a game of pool before they were to take the stage. When the moment finally arrived for The Black Angels to possess the platform, all instruments tuned and ready, the crowd suddenly poured in from the bar. With limited time, the Black Angels performed for one hour and rarely had a break between songs. A quick switch of guitars and a thank-you from Maas to the crowd was all there was time for as the Angels leapt into their next track.
Maas, in his usual beard and cap and with eyes hidden from view, droned out the lyrics to the hypnotic music being formed around him. Each member of the band methodically played their instruments and rocked to the beat, Jennifer Raines (organ), Nate Ryan (bass, guitar), and Kyle Hunt (bass, guitar, keyboard) creating a wail of music that smacked us all; the catchy, ‘60s styled, guitar buzzing rock goodness never stopped. But my favorite part of the equation that is the Black Angels was the drumming—a rhythmic, raw, loud drumming that made everyone in the crowd rock their heads in succession and one audience member cry out, “What an awesome drummer!” With a calm face full of concentration, Stephanie Bailey beat her kit senseless. I was mesmerized at how she created so much sound while appearing to barely break a sweat. The petite powerhouse created a stir as members of the audience shouted her name and praises until the set was done.
Though I waited eagerly for the Angels to perform “The First Vietnamese War” (from Passover), a moment that never arrived, they indeed played crowd favorites. People sang along with Maas and cheered at the commencement of each song. “Empire,” “Black Grease,” “The Sniper at the Gates of Heaven,” “The Prodigal Son,” and “Better Off Alone,” made the cut this night, as did another personal favorite of mine, “Young Men Dead.”
However, music was not the only thing the Angels had in store for their audience. With a visual show added to the set, The Black Angles had random patterns and colors flowing in the background; this display was intermittent with a silent, black and white film. With scenes of a man escaping a noose and swimming to freedom, I sometimes found myself captivated by the images behind Bailey and forgot to watch the band.
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