Levitation Live Shot: Black Angels

Stark need breeds a peak performance

“This is not an easy thing,” began Alex Maas, summing up the weekend simply. Co-founder of the Reverberation Appreciation Society and Levitation, the Black Angels vocalist took a moment before their set at the Historic Scoot Inn on Saturday night to broach the disappointment surrounding the festival’s cancellation.

Black Angels Christian Bland (l) and Alex Maas, Scoot Inn, 4.30.16 (Photo by John Anderson)

“I’ve never seen more passionate people than at Levitation or Psych Fest,” he added, thanking the fans and met by hollers of agreement from the sold-out house.

Elephant in the venue addressed, Austin’s heavy-hitters wasted no time launching into one hell of a show: a deafening, brain-melting 18 songs. Following earlier sets from sunny slackers Mild High Club and the Allah-Las, with their clean, California Sixties sound, the Black Angels absolutely annihilated, elevating the atmosphere from pleasant to delirious.

Mild High Club (Photo by John Anderson)

Allah-Las (Photo by John Anderson)

Illuminated by an unending barrage of psychedelic imagery, the Angels drew evenly from their discography, including more than a few cuts from 2006’s Passover: Dysfunctional relationships written out with “Black Grease,” paranoia and caveman drums via “Bloodhounds on My Trail,” and the mammoth, pulsing “Young Men Dead.” During “Better off Alone,” a sea of hands shot into the air, waving about wildly while a few sort-of crowdsurfing attempts unfolded, body parts all covered in rainbow projections.

As the lighting shifted from colorful shapes and inverted projections of ladies to strobe lights and back again, the Black Angels also worked through “I Hear Colors” and the uneasy, sinister title track of Indigo Meadow. “Haunting at 1300 McKinley,” “Yellow Elevator #2,” and the inexplicably spooky “Bad Vibrations,” all from 2010’s Phosphene Dream, followed suit. Surprising cuts also popped up in the deep set list, including “Molly Moves My Generation,” a track from a 7-inch split several years back.

Maas and Jake Garcia (r) (Photo by John Anderson)

Bland and drummer Stephanie Bailey (Photo by John Anderson)

Expert curation aside, the Black Angels delivered each song with a stark need to perform at peak for the audience. Their dedication to the psych music community in Austin is well-known, well-documented, and, on Saturday night, a necessity. The heart of Levitation was humming throughout the area around Scoot in every tiny way.

Outside the venue, throngs of fans perched on construction equipment to listen and dance like maniacs along the wall. Inside, amid plumes of weed clouds and kaleidoscopic projections, a badass little girl in the front row with killer cowboy boots and an adoration of the music went equally nuts. The weekend wasn’t easy, but there’s something to be said for the levitating that did happen in spite of it.

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Black Angels, Levitation 2016, Alex Maas, Christian Bland, Jake Garcia, Stephanie Bailey, Mild High Club, Allah-Las

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