This show was more then anticipated and the more it built up the evermore anxious and worried I was that it would be underwhelming for my personal expectations knowing full well the talents soon to adorn the stage with their presence. The Black Angels Death Song Tour was in Portland, Oregon & justifiably named when you know that The Velvet Underground’s “Black Angel Death Song” was the sole inspiration of the name of the band itself and quite obviously their main inspiration for their music style and vibe. The Austin natives are arguably our generations Velvet Underground.
Although I bought tickets as soon as they came up for sale_ I originally did so solely based on The Black Angels and I was stoked to hear that Ron Gallo and Daydream Machine would be the opening acts. As stoked and ready as I was to see them, I was extremely disappointed to show up @ 8:30 and see Ron Gallo setting up for a sound check. We assumed either Daydream Machine performed real early or they were performing after Ron Gallo for whatever reason.
Daydream Machine is one of my favorites in town and will likely move up with this year’s LP “The Show Must Go On” that exudes every genre and is an awesome middle of the day chill out album, (hints their name). The vocalist is soft but strong and the beat is constant but ever morphing with many instruments at play. Breaching jazz and funk at times with a backdrop of psych rock and post punk, (This is totally me dwelling by the way). As you can legitimately assume they never came out while we were there.
Ron Gallo made up for my confusion and suspicion by coming out like a champ and playing for the wall speakers with his back faced to the crowd just to run back on main stage and jump on and off of monitors while jamming his self admitted 3 year old album. Gallo himself was a complete joker and had the crowd wrapped around his finger for the entire set. From metal to folk and even a joke start of an old pop ballad “You Gotta be” by Des’ree, the sarcastic music genre has officially been created or at least cemented, Weird Al Yankovic, you’re different, don’t write a song about us. Ron Gallo, however, can write about anything they want and it will be amazing. Course, although they have some great lyrics, you don’t need lyrics when you can play your guitar with a suitcase and/or a drum. Which is exactly what Gallo did! When he picked up the suitcase I was already there on a trip with him knowing we were heading straight up to the guitar’s neck of the woods. Jimi Hendrix would have been proud to see this performance to say the least. As Ron Gallo puts it in their poetic ensemble “…pop tarts rise to the tops of the pop charts…” and he’s certainly correct in the notion that who sits at the tops of charts are often never the best or even admired at all in the true music scene. Pop is almost dead in my eyes unless it rocks or jams and then I can roll with it.
We were standing in an ever growing motionless line of people to head up to the bar. Reminiscent of a plane boarding, or even slower, as security was on a “one up, one down” system of admittance. Standing for about five or ten minutes with our new friend Regina we had seen 3 people go up… Fuck that! No alcohol is worth that line. I already had my friend Molly there who just showed up as I was contemplating whether to head in front for the next set or wait it out. At that moment a guy asked do you like DMT? To which I replied, “do you ever get a no to that question?”. Of course, knowing full well he had, he said yes and proceeded to ask if we like psilocybin. We all simultaneously said yes and were hoping he was not just blue balling us this go around as well. Turned out to be a yes and no as he popped a bit of goodness into each of our hands. That was my signal to stay and chat or leave for the front… Who needs alcohol when you’ve got friends like these.
We got up to the front without full knowledge of who would come up next due to our confusion about Daydream Machine but we knew as soon as the “Black Angel Death Song” came on. As they strolled out and immediately jumped into the politically poetic jam “Currency” off their new album I knew we were in for a wonderful treat. I leaned over to Rachel and a few random concert goers and said give me a couple songs and I’ll be surfin’ this crowd, and may need some help. One gentleman proclaimed he would and nothing more was needed to be said. Rachel of course wanted me there with her but since she was with our friend Regina I felt compelled to hop into the pit and was honestly surprised it wasn’t bigger and more raging. Yes, I know, The Black Angels are more psych then punk or metal, but, they certainly can and should be moshed to at times. And as I looked over for the second or third time I was drooling for the freedom felt when being a human pinball in the pit. So, with the intent to surf on the back of my mind, I rushed past the gentleman I spoke to earlier and gave him that look that should be sign language for “hope you’re ready”. I entered into the pit like a baby coming out of the womb or as if I was dead and exiting my tomb. I pushed and pulled and never folded or fell until my shoe came off enough that I stopped abruptly on one knee to put it back on. As I got up from my momentary break I wrapped my arms around two randoms and said, “I’m going up if you let me” to which they both agreed could not have been better timing. I tried a few times to rise up immediately but due to the wild nature of the pit I was almost kicking numerous folks in the head. So I quickly took the two dudes, still locked in by my arms, over to the gentleman on the edge of the pit and asked for a foot boost. He complied and before I knew it I was surfing on top of the crowd with a new perspective on everything. Like a student in the Dead Poet’s Society that was told by Robin Williams to stand on my desk. I was free and fulfilled as can be and then just as I was peaking with emotion I realized I was being led to the caged moat around the stage where two security guards were waiting on me. I reached back for a hand in the abyss of people and grabbed someone’s that helped me venture back to the edge of a hole in the pit where I proceeded to drop back in. I was elated beyond belief and decided to go back to Rachel and Regina to let them know I was ok and that I would stay for the remainder of the show.
There was maybe 2 or 3 more songs until they bounced off stage like someone told them they were robbed. The crowd was a bit amped for an encore at that second but almost immediately died and I was having nothing of it so I turned to the balcony and yelled out, “…Why did you even come here? You’re all dead to me… ” Which got a few people riled up and soon after I turned around and The Black Angels were coming out. Luckily the entire crowd wasn’t full of golf clappers. Not how you get an encore, that’s for sure, but we succeeded in doing so anyhow. They Played four more songs including the hit jam “Young Man’s Dead” which they closed with.
All and all it was a 5 out of 5 stars for me and we will see them every time they come to town.
PS: if anyone does have a picture or video of me surfin’ let me know and I will hug you dearly.