Psyched Up

The Black Angels + The Warlocks at the Middle East Downstairs, June 29, 2008
By MEGAN V. BELL  |  July 1, 2008

BOMBS AWAY! As the Black Angels’ set intensified, so did their bells and whistles.

Slideshow: the Black Angels and Warsaw at the Middle East Downstairs, June 29, 2008
Both the Warlocks and the Black Angels have been tagged “neo-psych,” so their pairing on this tour was more of a two-fer delight than a surprise. Yet the differences were apparent Sunday at the Middle East. The Warlocks drew fairly evenly from their near-decade’s discography, mixing garage-rock jams “Shake the Dope Out” and “The Dope Feels Good” from 2003’s Phoenix (Mute) with groove-heavy highlights “Zombie like Lovers” and “So Paranoid” from last year’s Heavy Deavy Skull Lover (Tee Pee).

The Black Angels, on the other hand, took the stage in complete darkness, and they opened with “Manipulation,” the band members’ shadows sliding across the backdrop, Alex Maas’s voice deep and foreboding against snaking sitar drones. Things picked up with “You on the Run,” the opener to May’s Directions To See a Ghost (Light in the Attic), as mushy, washed-out pastels spread across the backscreen, conjuring old performances by the Doors or Jefferson Airplane. From there the Angels grew more visible and more present, each song nudging up the energy level, from Maas’s animalistic shouts on “The Sniper at the Gates of Heaven” to the tight, percussive punch of “Science Killer” to the pleas that lead “Young Men Dead”: “We can’t live if we’re afraid to die!” As the Angels’ set intensified, so did their bells and whistles. A strobe light ravaged our eyes for the latter half, and projections of rockets, bombs, and American flags tore across the screen.

The music, the message, and the milieu of these bands are rooted in the anti-war and psychedelic movements that erupted more than 40 years ago, but neither outfit is too loose or too literal, and we were spared extended druggy superjams. If there was one sign that we’re firmly in the 21st century, it was the sea of cellphones hoisted into the air to document the Angels’ feverish rendition of “Bloodhounds on My Trail.” You can’t blame the kids for trying, but when it comes to unleashing and reliving a past experience, the Angels themselves are more effective than your Blackberry.

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  Topics: Live Reviews , Jefferson Airplane
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