The Rickshaw Stop is a pretty tiny venue, with a capacity of probably less than 150. So I knew this experience would be intimate, for better or worse.
Opening band Sadies, out of Toronto, played an interesting hybrid of bluegrass and rock. The incorperation of fiddle and upright bass clearly beholden to Appalachia, but swingy rhythm and vox that recalled rockabilly. Dueling guitarists alternated between rhythm and lead, sounding at times twangy and banjo-like, but also veering off into surf rock and even Byrds-esque territory.
At about twenty after ten the stage was set and the crowd was amped.
Black Mountain’s music, a heady blend of bluesy psychedelic stoner rock, sounds so much weightier live than recorded it’s difficult to exaggerate. This added weight could also be partially accounted for by the brooding tone of their lastest album, In the Future , which featured almost exclusively in tonight's set.
From the opening pads I knew this was going to be a good show. Jeremy Schmidt’s Moog provided a long atmospheric intro (long enough for the rest of the band to come on stage through the fog) which blended neatly into the chugging, bass heavy Wucan. Druganaut which sounds not unlike a sludgy Zepplin followed quickly after. The set tonight was fluid as the band didn't really spend much time mincing words.
The solid rhythm section was really prominant, almost hypnotic at points. And Amber Webber sounds so much different live than on the band’s recordings. The piercing moan of her voice cut through the atmosphere like a beam of ultra-violet light. To my surprise, that weird stuttering thing she does with her vocals is not an effect but a skill that she can perform at will.
The crescendo of the night certainly came with the frantic rolling toms and howling guitar of Evil Ways. The song is substantially charged anyways; but experiencing it live, it’s almost manic. Tyrants was just fucking awesome live! Definitely the highlight for me. The thundering intro and epic break down were a fitting homage to everything worth remembering about 1970’s rock ‘n’ roll.
The band played only one encore. However, being that it was the over-the-top Bright Lights, which clocks in at over 16 minutes, that was more than enough. [Black Mountain is a sister project of Pink Mountain Tops. Both groups feature members of the Vancouver art collective Black Mountain Army. Several of the band members work for no-profit Insite which provides care for the homeless and drug-addicted of Vancouver notorious Downtown Eastside neighborhood. This grim work has admittedly influenced the bands sound.]
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