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By James Cerche
15th June 2013

Approaching this gig with little knowledge of any of the players was both an exciting and daunting task. It is, however, refreshing and rewarding to give yourself over to some unfamiliar sounds and hopefully make some pleasant discoveries and/or some new friends. I happily chanced upon both. The evening kicked off with a Geelong outfit, awesomely titled: The Murlocs. Five tall, shabbily-dressed men with an aversion to haircuts who tore through a set of harmonica drenched blues-rock that owed equal thanks to early 70s Stones and American flower-punk act, Black Lips. They howled and jangled and were an interesting enough prologue. Special mention to the wiry drummer whose kit could barely contain him, making for most entertaining viewing.

The Laurels have toured under The Black Angels previously, and have obviously made some sort of impact to be invited back as the primary support act. It's not hard to see why the headliners were keen to have them along, considering rife similarities in style and tone. The Laurels are a Sydney band consisting of three dudes and girl who like to make a lot of noise. Their wall-of-sound ethos fits in well with the evenings alternative post-rock and shoegaze theme. Abstract loops were layered with fuzzed out guitars and swimming cymbals while strong bass and kit work kept the band anchored down with a droning groove. The pair of guitar-wielding vocalists recalled Kevin Shields (My Bloody Valentine) and a bearded Kurt Cobain in appearance, while sounding a little like Robert Been (Black Rebel Motorcycle Club). Their set was consistently engaging and contained a few moments of instrumentation that were genuinely thrilling.

The Black Angels strode on stage at 10:30pm to a moderate crowd, receiving a polite welcome as they donned their instruments under the light of a blue disco ball that cast shining stars into every corner of the venue. "We The Black Angels from Austin, Texas. Thank you for coming," was the only announcement made before the band launched into a 90 minute neo-psychedelic adventure that drew from their entire catalogue. Being relatively unfamiliar with The Angels, I was coming to this party cold and unsure of exactly what the all leather-jacketed men and beanie-wearing girls were gathering for. By mid-set, I had found a place of understanding and was able to happily lock into the bands groovy jams.

Frontman and primary vocalist, Alex Maas, rattled and shook his instruments of percussion like an angry hornet or a rattlesnake between picking up bass duties and clutching at the mic from beneath a peaked baker-boy cap. The rest of the band swayed and stomped through their shifting set, while a projector screen thrust swirling lines and warped colours onto the backdrop, which made for a visually engrossing accompaniment to the dense playing on stage. While the crowd remained relatively quiet throughout the set, there were warm responses to the band's key tunes and a religious attention to the playing. The five piece were tight and well-oiled in performance, with enough space in their playing to keep the songs feeling free between the heavy fuzz riffs and the lighter shoegaze swirls. Keen, precise drumming from the resolute Stephanie Bailey was standout alongside guitarist Christian Bland's command of his instrument's feedback.

The five piece were tight and well-oiled in performance.

The Black Angels are a band capable of immense power and focus in their driving, insistent take on modern psychedelica. Their Melbourne set was engaging and thorough, and as a fresh pair of ears I'll certainly be pursuing their material outside of the gig. While attention to dynamic was evident, it would have been even more exciting to see the band push the extremes in their music and get even quieter when they eased off and even harder when the foot came down. That said, a strong set of performances with many an influences worn on many a sleeve made for a most successful and comfortable adventure.

BAND: The Black Angels
MEMBERS: Stepahnie Bailey
Christian Bland
Kyle Hunt
Alex Maas
FORMED: 2004
FROM: Austin, Texas
SOUND: Psychedelic
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