Live Concert Photography: The Black Angels and The Black Lips at White Eagle Hall Jersey City 4/7/18
Currently comprised of Alex Maas (vocals, bass, drone machine, organ), Christian Bland (guitar, drone machine, organ), Kyle Hunt (keys, percussion, bass, guitar), Jake Garcia (guitar) and Stephanie Bailey (drums, percussion), the Austin, TX-based psych rock act The Black Angels formed back in 2004 and derive their name from the Velvet Underground‘s “The Black Angel’s Death Song.” With their appearance on Northern Star Records‘ 2005 compilation of contemporary psych rock, Psychedelica, Vol. 1 and a popular MySpace page, the band quickly saw a jump of popularity in psych rock and indie rock circles.
Their 2006 full-length debut Passover was well-received and praised for its dark lyrical content and tone, and it prominently featured a quote in the liner notes from painter Edvard Munch: “Illness, insanity, and death are the black angels that kept watch over my cradle and accompanied me all my life.” Adding to a rapidly growing profile, the band had material featured in the soundtrack for the 2007 major motion picture Death Sentence, which starred Kevin Bacon, an episode of FOX‘s Fringe and an episode of Californication.
Their sophomore album 2008’s Directions to See a Ghost had songs featured on The History Channel‘s 2009 documentary Manson Speaks, a 2010 episode of UFC Primetime, St. Pierre vs. Hardy and “Young Men Dead” was featured on the soundtrack of 2011 snowboard movie, The Art of Flight. Adding to a growing profile, the members of The Black Angeles have toured with The Black Keys, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, The Warlocks, Roky Erickson, The Brian Jonestown Massacre, Queens of the Stone Age, The Raveonettes, Wolfmother, The Horrors and others.
Opening the night was the Atlanta, GA-based garage punk act, The Black Lips and the band which is currently comprised of founding members Cole Alexander (vocals, rhythm guitar) and Jared Swilley (vocals, bass) along with the band’s newest members Oakley Munson (drums) and Zumi Rosow (saxophone), The Black Lips can trace their origins back to when its founding duo of Alexander and Swilley, along with Ben Eberbaugh (guitar) all left their previous bands — The Renegades and The Reruns. As the story goes Alexander and Swilley were known for crude antics during shows and at school, and they were both kicked out of school during their senior year because they were regarded as a “subculture danger” post Columbine. Their first drummer, Joe Bradley, who had graduated high school early and was studying in college, joined the band a few months later. Their 2002 debut 7 inch featured tracks from their first studio full-length, which they completed in 2000 with The El Caminos‘ Eric Gagnon taking up production duties. The 7 inch featured “Juvenile” and “Ain’t Coming Back,” both of which were tracked, mixed and mastered by Gagnon and was released on their own record label, Die Slaughterhouse. Tragically, just a few days before the band was to begin a tour, their guitarist Ben Eberbaugh was struck and killed by a drunk driver. The surviving members of the band decided to carry on, believing that Eberbaugh would have wanted them to continue. The band’s 2003 full-length album Black Lips! was a tribute commemorating Ben Eberbaugh’s life, which featured two additional songs from their unreleased Eric Gagnon-produced full-length, “Stone Cold” and “Can’t Get Me Down,” and interestingly enough, the band had “Stone Cold” remastered with the channels flipped from the original two-track mix to avoid legal trouble. The band went through a series of lineup changes after Eberbaugh’s death — Jack Hines, a longtime friend of band joined for the recording of their sophomore effort, We Did Not Know the Forest Spirit Made the Flowers Grow but Hines left in 2004 and he was replaced by Ian St. Pe, who was studying music at the University of Memphis as a music major — and with St. Pe, the band built up a national profile based on their rough pastiche of blues, rock, doo-wop, country and punk; in fact, they were featured in Spin, Rolling Stone and The New York Times. Early 2007’s Los Valientes del Mundo Nuevo was reportedly recorded at a Tijuana, Mexico bar but fans, musicians and journalists have expressed doubts about that claim with many speculating that some or most of the album was recorded in a studio with renowned guitarist and punk rocker John Reis. In response, the band’s Swilley stated that Reis recorded a live Tijuana, Mexico show with a soundboard, microphones and a computer placed strategically near the stage with St. Pe adding that the band had to use the best 12 out of 20 live cuts from an absolutely nuts show. The end of 2007 saw the release of Good Bad Not Evil and the band ended a breakthrough year with their American national television debut on Late Night with Conan O’Brien where they played “O Katrina,” and the following year they made their UK national television debut on BBC 3‘s The Wall, where they played “Bad Kids.” In October 2008, a portion of “Veni Vidi Vici” appeared in an episode of ABC’s Dirty Sexy Money and at one point, the song was going to be used in an ad campaign for the British supermarket chain Tesco, but according to the band, the company decided to not go through with the deal over concerns about the song’s lyrical content. They followed that up with an early 2009 tour of India but after a Chennai show, the members of the band had become deeply worried about the risk of getting arrested and imprisoned for alleged homosexual acts, so the band quickly fled the city and eventually the country. After leaving India, the band wound up in Berlin, where they recoded a full-length album of gospel-influenced songs with King Khan and BBQ Show under the name the Almighty Defenders. Their fifth full-length album 2009’s 200 Million Thousand was recorded at New Street Studio in Decatur, GA and was supported with a lengthy world tour in which they played 122 shows across the United States and the European Union. They were also featured in the documentary film We Fun: Atlanta, GA Inside Out, which debuted at that year’s Atlanta Film Festival. Since then the band has released their 2010 Mark Ronson-produced album Arabia Mountain, as well as their most recent release, the Sean Lennon-produced Satan’s graffiti or God’s Art — and the album finds the band at their most evolved musically and sonically, while retaining their blistering, garage rock take on rock and punk rock. During the recording sessions, the band’s founding duo of Alexander and Swilley teamed up with former guitarist Jack Hines, along with the newest members of Munson and Rosow. And the album features guest spots from Fat White Family’s Saul Adamczewski and Yoko Ono.