Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Ripple Field Trip: Black Mountain @ The Independent SF - 4/29/2016



With Black Mountain’s latest offering, IV, out now for about a full month, they are in complete tour-cycle mode and in top form. Starting in Europe in Mid-March they returned to the states Mid-April for about a month of non-stop shows before fleeing back up into the cold frontier from which they came, finishing in their hometown of Vancouver on 5/21. If you haven’t already missed them in your town, let me touch upon why I think you should go see them.
They opened the show with the opening tracks of IV, “Mothers of the Sun” & “Florian Saucer Attack”. “Mothers..” is a killer track that showcases all the things I’ve come to know and love from Black Mountain – beginning with Jeremy Schmidt’s throbbing synth, followed by a fuzzed out riff from Stephen McBean that oozes swagger - but played only once… leaving any follower of the fuzz desperately aching for more. The synth continues to pulse under the soft vocals of Amber Webber, until a few minutes in when we are graced once again by Stephen’s fuzz along with the drums of Joshua Wells and the bass of newcomer Brad Truax. Some great lead guitar work is then punctuated by a fantastic dynamic change that brings some funk. After their first 2 songs they went back in time a little bit and played “Stormy High” off their second album, 2008’s In the Future, followed by a slightly extended jam version of “Druganaut” from their 2005 debut/self-titled album.
They came back to IV with the synth-laden “Cemetary Breeding” and slowed things down just a bit before propelling into what is probably my favorite Black Mountain track in “Tyrants”. A pummeling intro, followed by a slow build of phased-out guitar with a great undercurrent of synth work turns into a fantastic guitar/synth spree of leads and repeating motif’s, with Stephen and Jeremy extending this section longer than normal. With a swirl of synth and guitar noise fading out, the crowd began to do something I loathe – applauding before the song is over… like half the crowd had never heard the song before… The band let the crowd cheer while their wall of sound slowly faded – until everyone and everything was quiet enough for the outro.
They jumped back into material from IV with “You Can Dream” and “Line Them All Up” before interspersing some older songs with new – playing “Wilderness Heart”, “Defector”, “Wucan” and ending with IV’s closer - “Space to Bakersfield” – with its Floyd inspired first half full of phased out guitar chords and synth play leading up to Stephen channeling his inner Eddie Hazel and making his guitar cry in an extended solo full of fuzzy wah. I was perfectly placed in front of him to get a couple fun shots mid-solo, tweaking pedals.
The band left the stage and was obviously planning on coming back for more as the house lights stayed off. A few moments later Jeremy and Joshua emerged from the side of the stage and took their positions. They began to work out the ambient/spacey intro to “(Over and Over) The Chain” – Joshua had what appeared to be some synth pads and a tiny module next to his drum kit that he fiddled around on while Jeremy did the same with his array of boards.
A few minutes of droning synths went on before the rest of the band came out and joined them. After that they finished with their usual closer (I’ve seen them live 3 times over 3 album tours and they’ve always done it), “Don’t Run Our Hearts Around” from their debut album. 

Speaking of seeing them twice before – it seemed to my buddy and I that they were in a happier mood on stage than they had seemed to be in the past. Amber has previously, to me, seemed nervous and it always looked like she would stare at the back of the room above the crowd attempting to not make eye contact, only smiling now and then when she would accidentally meet someone’s eyes. On this night, though, she and Stephen were both smiling just about the entire show – clearly having a good time and feeding off the energy of each other, the rest of the band and the crowd in general. Each time I see them I think I enjoy them a bit more than the last. Now go see for yourself!

-Mattie

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