Words by Emily Doyle / Pics by Rob Hadley
London’s self-described ‘sunshine doom’ 5-piece, Mass Datura, serve up a set of melodic prog to begin the evening. But thanks to a surprisingly long queue for entry at the O2 Institute, complete with drug dog patrols outside the venue, their early set is enjoyed by a smaller audience than they deserved.
And while the violin and keys are a little low in the mix, they craft some interesting textures – providing some excellent fodder to ease the crowd into the evening of psych to come (Mass Datura’s debut LP Sentimental Breakdown is out now on All Types of Slime Records, should you want to fall a little deeper down the rabbit hole).
A Place to Bury Strangers slink onto the stage next, in an unassuming manner; they seem satisfied in the knowledge that the majority of the crowd (this reviewer included) have no idea what is to come. The term ‘wall of noise’ is thrown around all too lightly but in this case it is appropriate; intense strobe lighting marks the start of their set, at 8pm sharp, and does not relent throughout the opening track. Within minutes, some audience members are forced to shield their eyes.
Lia Simone Braswell is one of those rare drummer-come-front person characters. Her kit occupies the front and centre of the stage, a vocal mic arched above her. She is a powerhouse. To her left is Oliver Ackermann of Death By Audio fame, whose distorted vocals cut through the maelstrom; to her right is Dion Lunadon, who indulges in some bass guitar abuse to rival the Clash’s Paul Simonon – trusting his bass into the crowd while Ackermann holds his guitar aloft, and the noise fades.
Braswell produces an autoharp. She proceeds to play a haunting tune, accompanied by delicate vocals, while Lunadon and Ackermann tune up. A Place to Bury Strangers launch back into the howling punk-rock of 2009’s ‘I Lived My Life to Stand in the Shadow Of Your Heart’ with renewed energy. In my notepad, I write the word ‘onslaught’ a total of three times at different points during their set.
The lights dim and A Place to Bury Strangers appear to leave the stage, so the crowd migrates towards the bar to refuel before the headline act. Without warning, a driving electronic beat starts up and multi-coloured lasers erupt from a small circle over by the bar; Ackermann has wheeled a flight case into the crowd and the performance continues. Braswell’s aggressive dancing keeps us just far enough back while Lunadon climbs on top of the case, bass guitar in hand. After this extended jam, A Place to Bury Strangers dissolve into the audience once more… The room awaits The Black Angels.
‘Currency’, the opening track from The Black Angels‘ 2017 album, Death Song, is greeted by cheers. The driving two note riff cuts through the O2 Institute’s main room, with what appears to be Beelzebub’s teletext projected onto the back of the stage. The Black Angels exude a quiet, stoic confidence; a stark contrast to the territorial noise-rock of A Place to Bury Strangers. Alex Mass’s shamanic vocals are hypnotic, a perfect counterpoint to the grinding drums from Stephanie Bailey.
2010’s juddering ‘Bad Vibrations’ lulls the crowd into a comfortable, woozy sway. Everything about The Black Angels’ performance is equally comforting and uneasy; each track is full of the warm, swirling psychedelia of their forebears, but also buzzes with a hint of discord. On stage the band are relaxed, but choose to keep their distance with a complete absence of dialogue.
The crowd responds with an equally subdued manner; one girl dares to climb onto a friends shoulders to sway along to ‘You On The Run’ and is met by a surprising amount of disapproving British frowns. The Black Angels certainly aren’t in Texas anymore.
After an encore culminating in their breakthrough hit, ‘Young Mean Dead’, the audience files out of the O2 Institute. On my way out the door I run into Martin of Tamworth two-piece You Dirty Blue, eyeing the Death By Audio pedals on A Place to Bury Strangers’ merch stand (I later learn that grinders emblazoned with the slogan ‘Listen To The Black Angels’ were also on offer). On reflection, we both agree that although The Black Angels were as excellent as you would expect, it was A Place to Bury Strangers that were the band of the night.
Mass Datura – supporting The Black Angels @ O2 Institute 26.09.17 / Rob Hadley – Birmingham Review
A Place to Bury Strangers – supporting The Black Angels @ O2 Institute 26.09.17 / Rob Hadley – Birmingham Review
For more on A Place to Bury Strangers, visit www.aplacetoburystrangers.com
The Black Angels @ O2 Institute 26.09.17 / Rob Hadley – Birmingham Review
For more on The Black Angels, visit www.theblackangels.com
For more from the O2 Institute, including full event listings and online ticket sales, visit www.academymusicgroup.com/o2institutebirmingham
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