Over the past couple of weeks, Austin, TX modern psych phenoms The Black Angels and Hanni El Khatib paired up for a May tour that wrapped up in downtown Los Angeles on Tuesday night. The venue of choice was the exotic confines of The Mayan, a revival-style theater of the late 1920s featuring a lobby known as “The Hall of Feathered Serpents” and a large and gaudy chandelier based on the Aztec calendar stone. Think Legends of the Hidden Temple, except not a television set. This place is real…and it’s awesome.
Both bands delivered in their own very distinct ways and the second band of the night (we missed the first) Hanni El Khatib had the musical talent, intensity and pop sensibility to easily be headlining a venue the size of The Mayan (if not larger) in the very near future. In only thirty-five minutes HEK of LA left a huge impression and even if you think you don’t know their music, you probably do, unless you don’t own a television (El Khatib’s music is in countless major t.v. commercials at the moment). Be on the lookout for these guys and check out their brand new 2nd LP Head in the Dirt (produced by Dan Auerbach).
The Black Angels took the stage right at 10 pm, with members coming out after three minutes of sonic etherea and projections filled the room and slowly eased the crowd into the colorful and jarring audiovisual experience they were about to take in.
Starting off the show mostly in the dark (amidst bubbly colors) with “Vikings” (from 2008’s Directions To See A Ghost), the gravity of the evening’s headlining set was quickly established and moments of levity thereafter could be counted on one hand…er finger. “I Hear Colors (Chromaesthesia)” would come next, with perhaps the most fitting lyrics to describe their current lysergic visual display, a throwback to the early days of Acid Rock in the early 60s that woulda done the recently-departed Ray Manzarek proud.
The band’s latest single “Don’t Play With Guns” came next and got the biggest response from the crowd of the night. The surfy and upbeat “Telephone” (from 2010’s Phosphene Dream) and dark and heavier new tunes from Indigo Meadow like the title track “Indigo Meadow” and “Holland” were arguably the pre-encore personal highlights of the night. However, the real meat of the show came during a downright stunning encore that sent the packed house off a little more mind-bent than when we arrived.
SHOW NOTE: The Black Angels Lead singer Christian Bland made a subtle nod to Biggie Smalls when he versed on “Going Back To Cali” amidst a heavy squall of sound midway through the show. Fans could’ve missed it if they weren’t paying attention at that particular moment. This is the aforementioned single moment of levity from an otherwise mega serious and powerful set of music.