Psych Rock Stalwarts Leave Motor City Entranced

Live Review

The Black Angels. Photo by Chyrisse.

By Vlad T, Journalist, Rock At Night Detroit and Chyrisse Tabone, Photographer, Rock At Night Tampa

Live Review: The Black Angels with the Vacant Lots – The Majestic Theatre, Detroit, MI-October 10, 2022

Midtown Detroit’s Majestic Theater recently experienced a display of psych rock mastery from a pair of practitioners that, while from different spheres of the genre, transported the audience into similar inner spaces of delight.

The Black Angels. Photo by Chyrisse.

The Black Angels are psych rock veterans from Austin with sensibilities steeped in storied psych traditions from artists like genre progenitors the 13th Floor Elevators (Roky Erickson). To illustrate the place the Angels occupy in psychedelic music lineage, they served as the legendary Roky Erickson’s backing band on an American tour in 2008. Psych rock helped make Austin weird, and the Angels help keep it weird.

The band’s sprawling set at the Majestic showed an operation at the peak of its powers in conjuring many facets of the psychedelic music vocabulary. The stirring, dirge-like drone of fan favorites like “Manipulation” and “First Vietnamese War” revealed the Angels’ ability to use the Phrygian dominant scale to mystical effect, while the audience reveled in hearing tracks from new album Wilderness of Mirrors, including the powerful “Icon” and delicate, moody “The River”.  

The Black Angels. Photo by Chyrisse.

Interaction with the concertgoers was brief and humble, as if to keep from diluting the performance’s considerable sensory impact on the audience. As the set concluded, many in the crowd quietly lingered for a few minutes, processing what they just experienced. The experience registered at a visceral, almost erotic level.

The evening’s openers, Brooklyn electro duo the Vacant Lots, set the tone for the evening’s delights with a deliciously noisy, occasionally stark, and wildly rhythmic set that engaged the body and ears on many levels. As with the headliner Angels, the Lots (Jared Artaud and Brian MacFadyen) share an meaningful lineage with its sub-genre’s prototype, the immensely influential electro psych rock duo Suicide from the 70s, having toured and shared releases with that band’s Alan Vega.

The Vacant Lots. Photo by Chyrisse.

The band’s set, encompassing original favorites such as “Departure” and “Mad Mary Jones” and tracks from the new album Closure, was received very enthusiastically by the Detroit audience with an affinity for the duo’s chilly, occasionally spooky, vocal affectations and throbbing electro drones.

The tour continues in North America through the fall and then finds its way to Europe. Highly recommended.