Monday night at the sold-out Bluebird Theater, the Black Angels offered Denver fans the trippiest way to ring in 2013, in a show that managed to be both darkly psychedelic and optimistically pop. Standard-bearers of the Austin psychedelic rock revival, the Angels’ drone and drums heavy sound is alternately reminiscent of the Doors, the Beach Boys at Brian Wilson’s weirdest and the sonic hammering of My Bloody Valentine.
Denver’s Snake Rattle Rattle Snake offered a perfectly slithery opening set of its own dark pop melodies that set the tone for the evening. The Angels opened the set with new music: “Don’t Play with Guns,” a fitting caution for the end of a year marked by gun violence. The band, driven by the pounding drumming of Stephanie Bailey, turned up the energy right out of the gate on the last night of the year, launching into “Bad Vibrations” and “Entrance Song,” two of the stand-out tracks from the Angels’ last album, 2010’s “Phosphene Dream.”
The Angels manage to create a darkly psychedelic sound that is not dour, and the band’s New Year’s Eve vibe was largely festive. Early in the show, vocalist Alex Maas even yielded the mic to an on-stage marriage proposal from the crowd. The Angels saved the darkest jams for later in the set: a slithery “Black Grease;” and after the cheerfully obligatory New Year’s countdown, the foreboding “Young Man Dead” felt oddly festive. The expansive sonic exploration of guitarist Christian Bland was complimented by Rishi Dhir’s gorgeous sitar work. The Black Angels’ darkly celebratory show was the perfect farewell to the mixed bag of 2012.
Amy McGrath is a Denver-based writer and regular contributor to Reverb.