The Black Angels @ The Hi-Fi, 30.06.11
by Justin Edwards
The Black Angels are another one of those bands that I didn’t know a whole load about but who were recommended to me by so many people when their tour was announced that I decided to put in for it. The gig was advertised as them headlining with Joel Gion from Brian Jonestown supporting as Guest DJ. I guessed on the band starting at 10pm so headed in (I think it’s the first time I’ve driven to a gig in Brisbane) and got to the Hi-Fi just after 9:30pm just in time to see the last couple minutes of The Laurels, an announced and unadvertised opening band that no one had even bothered to add to the gig’s event page on Facebook. For the couple of minutes I saw of them they sounded pretty good. The playing times on door listed The Black Angels as not starting until 10:30pm. Sometimes, increasingly more regularly, I think I’m just getting too old for this, or at least too old for mid-week gigs.
I find that I’m right in time for Joel Gion’s DJ set. Initially he’s got his turntables (it was nice to see a DJ playing some vinyl, you don’t see much of that these days) in the dark at the side of the stage but within a couple of minutes they’ve got a huge spotlight on him, something he’s obviously uncomfortable with, as even from the other side of the room you can see him squinting until he pulls his sunglasses out from his pocket and puts them on. I don’t think I recognise anything he plays; it varies from 60s garage to psychedelia to sitar-based drones. It does have the effect of making time go really slowly though.
Eventually it finishes, The Black Angels take to the stage and we head into the incredibly narrow photo pit. It’s a fairly tough shoot, though, as lead singer Alex Maas spends most of the three songs leaning on his mic stand with his hands tightly gripping the stand and a tambourine being held right in front of his face; it makes getting a photo of his face difficult. It also doesn’t help that he’s got his keyboards on one side, meaning that the photographers are squeezed into a very small area of the photo pit as you can’t see him from the other side of the stage. Every now and then he breaks away from the stand, moves around the stage a bit and plays his tambourine, but the stage is really darkly lit making it difficult to photograph him when he does it as well as making it difficult to photograph any of the rest of the band.
After the three songs are done I check out the photos at the back of the room and it doesn’t look too bad, or at least as good as I could have expected given the circumstances. I stay and watch the band for a bit but, to be honest, it’s fairly dull and boring. I can’t work out if it’s meant to sound like that or if they’re just another victim of the notoriously poor sound at the Hi-Fi, as it’s all top end and very little in the way of bass. [Their two albums are great! – Ed] Either way it’s nowhere near as enjoyable as their contemporaries Black Mountain were earlier in the year. I stay for about 40 minutes and then head out. Like I said, I think I’m getting too old for these mid-week gigs.