Last Night: The Black Angels, Brothers & Sisters and True Widow at the Granada

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The Black Angels, Brothers & Sisters, True Widow Granada Theater May 29, 2008

Better than: Getting stoned and watching the Discovery Channel back at your apartment.

Download: Mr. Hal Samples snapped himself a bunch o' shots of The Black Angels last night. Check 'em here.

The blue back-lighting certainly didn't hurt. (Hal Samples)

Two of Austin's finest--The Black Angels and Brothers & Sisters--made the northward trek to Dallas last night and, certainly, the 400 or so people in attendance at the Granada Theater did their best to make these bands feel at home. Although, man, if I didn't know any better I might assume that this is The Black Angels' home.

See, here's the thing about this show last night: I mean, I guess there was a decent crowd in attendance for a Thursday night show, but it probably was a good hundred or so folks below what it could've been. In April alone, The Black Angels played Dallas twice; and yet here they were again playing again to a somehow still-desperate-for-more Dallas set.

Makes it tough, on some level, to distinguish between them and this Austin guy, who's seemingly made a career out of visiting the D regularly. Except, y'know, the Angels are a helluva lot more badass.

I get the fandom. Hell, I saw them two out these three mentioned dates; I'm right there with everyone else. And The Black Angels are a pretty amazing psych rock band. It's not like they're reinventing the wheel here or anything, but as far as current touring bands go, you'd be hard-pressed to find another act doing better in the genre. It's really tough not to be captivated by their live show.

As the basslines and drumbeats drone along, stuck in some sort of epic repeat, the lead guitar part wavers between ethereal meanderings and a share of the in-time efforts with the rhythm section. Then, once a plodding place is set, vocalist Alex Maas emerges, seeming both distant (thanks reverb!) and uncomfortably near to the listeners. He croons into the mic, standing and pacing about the stage with a practiced nonchalance.

Slowly, his vocals start worming their way into your conscience. You only catch so much of what he's saying, but you're drawn in by just that. You want more. And suddenly, you realize, you've taken the bait. You've lost. You're powerless. Maas has you under command. Everything's gone to plan. He's running through the recesses of your mind. He's Gollum looking for the Ring.

And then the music ends. It's a sharp break.

Was that one song or two? Three? You're lost. How much time has past? You don't know. Three minutes? Nine?

You think about it for a second. Then the music starts again. And the same thing happens again.

Listen. Get Lost. Repeat.

Over and over. The process continues for an hour and twenty minutes--or so you realize when you finally get the sense of mind to check the time after the Angels' two-song (or was it three?) encore is over.

You take a breath. You buy a T-shirt, maybe a 3-D poster. You go home. End of night.

There's clearly a religious-like experience that the Angels are going for. It's what local opening act True Widow was kinda going for, too, only they were more Pixie-ish with their male/female harmonized choruses. They were OK. Didn't hit all their marks. Sounded real nervous--the frontman's voice was noticeably wavering on the opening song, and though it tempered, it never fully settled, sounding a little too nasally at its best times. A far cry from its recorded efforts if Myspace is to be believed. But, then again, this was only True Widow's fourth gig and certainly the biggest stage its ever played on.

Brothers & Sisters, meanwhile, was the odd man out on the bill. With a poppyish Americana sound, the five-piece was nothing like the other bands on the bill. Not even close. And yet it worked, like they were the cheery, sunny daybreak between two dark nights.

Critic's Notebook Personal Bias None. Saw The Black Angels at Good Records. Dug it then. Wanted to see it again. Left with a Black Angels T-shirt and a Brothers & Sisters CD.

Random Note: Before The Black Angels' set, the Granada video people unsuccessfully tried showing a Roky Erickson video. Didn't work. But it's the thought that counts, right?

By The Way: Be on the lookout for free downloads this afternoon. --Pete Freedman

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