Last Night: Lower Heaven and Black Mountain at the Bootleg Theater
Ever had that feeling when you wake up from a dream and can only vaguely recall what happened? You can kind of remember that it was pleasant or frightening as the case may be, but the details are lost on the edge of your memory just out of reach. There may have been bunnies with flaming machetes in it, but you're not really sure and suddenly you have a craving for waffles with beets. The kind of dreams where you wake up with only the slightest grasp of what your name is?
Lower Heaven's set was just like that.
Hauntingly beautiful melodies would issue out of lead singer, Marcos Chlokas' autoharp like flashes of light in the ominous grey clouds of reverb which Jesus and the Mary Chain would have approved of. The songs were built slowly like a house of cards. In a bright red dress and black heels, Christina Park looked menacing as she lay down the sinister bass grooves that built the core of each tune.
Not to be outdone, drummer Brandon Sciarra would add beats that were unnerving, like they were someone's footsteps following you in an alley late at night. Chlokas' vocals were muffled and indistinct, but that didn't seem to matter so much. They were like half reminders of a message or a warning that lay deep in your subconscious that you couldn't really remember, but knew was important.
The only real downside of the set was that it was too mellow. Each song was lovely in its own right, but put together back to back they told no story. There were no epic waves of anguish or heartbreak from the guitars or drums. No screams of joy or lust from the lead singer. Just a steady aching melancholy, which is enjoyable, but after the first half and hour you begin to long for something different to break it up.
After the set was over the floodgates opened and swarthy men in black with creative facial hair filled the Bootleg last night to see the Canadian heavy rockers Black Mountain. Within five minutes the place had turned into a hot and murky swamp of humanity.
This seemed to suit the band just fine. The long haired quintet took the stage and warmed up with one of their more quiet songs. Singer Amber Webber stood there bold as brass which her long brown hair loose in a black sack dress looking for all the world like the progeny of Janis Joplin without the feathers. Her clear voice blending with Stephen McBean's to form one voice that warned you of impending doom.
Black Mountain is fueled by giant crashing drum solos, psychedelic organ swirls, and guitar solos which snarl and threaten to bite your head off. They take all the elements that you love about classic rock radio and combine it into one harbinger of death and destruction. It's kind of music that pours out of the speakers when the evil biker gang comes to take over a town in the movies. The kind that gets into your gut and makes you want to tattoo your lover's name on your arm before going to cheat on him with his brother. It's the soundtrack of dark desires.
Only thing is, it's been done before, and it's been done better. Turn on Black Mountain and you can't help but hear their influences shining through. You hear pieces of Led Zeppelin and shards of Cream, some elements from the Doors, and half a dozen other bands from that era. For those of us who didn't get to see it the first time, Black Mountain gives us a show that is as close as we're going to get to 1969 dark psych. However it would be much better if we could hear something that was distinctly their own.
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