Showgrid Story #5

If you’ve ever listened to or read the name of The Black Angels then you know the color most synonymous with them is, well… black. Not aquamarine or hot pink or yellow or any of the bright happy colors you might see at a Hawaiian luau, but an intimidating, darkness. A blackness. A mean machine of a darkness. A darkness that is swift and quick like death.

So, with this in mind, let’s learn about the time that I went to a Black Angels concert with my girlfriend at the time. Neither of us knew much about the band, but through a friend, were invited to go see them play the Exit/In. Rumors of The Black Angelsfloated around various social circles, but it was one of those bands I never took the ‘dive’ with.

Anyways, so we’re going to this concert. I am picked up by a car full of giddy girls. One wears a bright yellow shirt, my girlfriend wore a hot pink shirt and I wore a bright aquamarine button down I had bought at J. Crew a few days earlier. In contrast to The Black Angels’ black and the attire of the crowd at the show, these shirts might as well have been holy-white-light. On the way there, we listened to the Eagles, Tom Petty, probably some Foster The People. A whole litany of happy pop and rock songs.

The band opening for them was the Night Beats who blew my mind. Straight from the 60s, these guys slammed a luscious punk-psych sound. Like Da Vinci’s ‘The Last Supper’, the band had their drummer front and center, flanked by a bassist and a radical, wild child lead guitarist and singer. They rocked. The vibe was ‘black’ but sprinkled with enough color that I was not self-conscious about the fact that our group lit up the place like a christmas tree.

Then The Black Angels come on stage. The lights are turned completely off. No stage lighting save a single spotlight on the lead singer who sits behind a machine that was likely just a telephone he used to talk to Lucifer and ask whether he should buy a black Trans Am and embark on a cross country rampage.

At this point, I am a few beers in and we get into an oft-repeated, playful conversation about whether I can dance. So here at a Black Angels concert, I decide to engage the best side of my dancing self and settle the score.

White and from Nashville, I only know how to swing dance, so the girl in the hot pink shirt and the guy in the aquamarine oxford are swing dancing in the middle of a crowd dressed mostly in black, not a single one dancing, while the lead singer of the Angels, Alex Maas, howls like Jim Morrison having a direct, blunt conversation with Satan about motorcycle maintenance. We had a ball, bumped into people, were politely asked to stop with annoyed glances and generally lit up the place like a nativity scene in an atheist’s house.

Call me a hippy. Call me a spiritual gobbly-goo, but I do believe that it is possible to let music ‘own’ you while you are at a concert. Channeling The Black Angels into a competitive swing dance dance-off is perhaps a strange way to let it own you, but to each his own. The Black Angels rock.

My point here being: don’t be afraid to dance, people. Stand up at the Ryman (please for the love of God, don’t be afraid to standup), dance to shoe-gaze, hell, maybe even tap your foot at the symphony. I just watched 80 year olds dance to bad Beatles covers for over two hours and it made me happier than a dog at dinner time.