The Black Angels’ Texas psychedelic tradition

While the West Coast got all the press in the 60s, music lovers often forget that psychedelic rock has its roots as much in the Lone Star State as in California, thanks to acid rock heroes the 13th Floor Elevators, who were the first band to apply the term “psychedelic” to rock & roll. As Eddie Contreras commented on Twitter, Austin’s own Black Angels “are keeping up the tradition of legends like Roky Erickson at #acltv right now – good ol psychedelic music from Texas!”

If any band could be described as being bathed in a sea of reverb, it’s The Black Angels. (Their record label is called the Reverb Appreciation Society, after all.) With a few whammy barred chords drenched in cavernous echo, the band launched into “The Sniper,” swirling together melody and drone. That blend defines the band’s aesthetic, which was in full flower on the ACL TV stage. The set leaned most heavily on the band’s later, more melodic work on Phosphene Dream and this year’s Indigo Meadow – gems like “Evil Things,” “I Hear Colors” and the overtly 60s-worshipping “Yellow Elevator” moved the band close to pop without compromising its essential psychedelic brood. But The Black Angels indulged in plenty of its signature drone rock, as the dark, propulsive brooding of “Mission District,” “You On the Run” and “Black Grease” (the song that put the band on the map seven years ago) set the controls for the heart of the sun. “Twisted Light” ended the main set with layers of guitar and organ compote.

For the encore, they kicked off with “Telephone,” the poppiest song in its repertoire, sounding almost like a lost Small Faces classic. Then it was into the sardonic drone of “Bad Vibrations,” before bringing it all back home with the mysterious and powerful “Young Men Dead,” the first song on their first album Passover. The Black Angels took Austin City Limits into the psychedelic heart of darkness and back out into the light. We can’t wait for our fans to see them in action this fall – stay tuned.