Black Moth Super Rainbow at Fine Line, 5/13/13
Photo by Erik Hess
Black Moth Super Rainbow with the Hood Internet and Oscillator Bug Fine Line Music Cafe Monday, May 13, 2013
You can dress up the sound of Pittsburgh's Black Moth Super Rainbow with any sort of fancy micro-genre you choose and it will never be correct. Neo-stoner rock, electro-psychedelia, the list could go on and on, but it is the sound of one thing: drugs. BMSR is what drugs sound like. This isn't a bad thing necessarily, and Monday's show at the Fine Line was like an hour-long acid trip, if acid was something you smoked. If that makes any sense, and likely, it shouldn't. Like that statement two sentences ago, the band should be taken at face value and not dissected any further, though that's not an easy task given the deceptive complexity of most of the work and song structures that beg for questions to be asked. Monday didn't make anything more clear, but it certainly made things more fun.
Opening the set with the narcotic, buzzy "Hairspray Heart" from last year's Cobra Juicy, the band set the tone of the evening early on, creating an atmosphere that lulled the crowd into a mental haze with the psychedelic riffs and ominous noise floating in waves from the stage, lead singer Tobacco (born Thomas Fec) sing-speaking the lyrics through a Vocoder, while at the same time that noise commanded everyone to dance (or at least sway a bit.)
Photos by Erik Hess
The band dug their heels in for good a couple of songs later with "Windshield Smasher," with its almost -- almost -- pop sensibilities obscured by a Rhodes organ riff that was threaded throughout. "Dark Bubbles" and "Tooth Decay" followed soon after, and the crowd by this point was in full on stupor mode, brought on by what was likely a combination of auditory stimulation and endorphin rush from the manic, discombobulated dancing that was taking place throughout the club.
There was film that played over the course of the night on the back wall of the stage, as well, most of which looked like found footage, all of it designed to make you feel various levels of uncomfortable, it seemed. At one point a nearly 10-minute clip of a cooling tower from a nuclear plant belched steam into the bright summer sky as a child's swing drifted slowly in the breeze in the foreground. The band moved very little over the course of the night, save for some head bobs, and barely acknowledged the crowd -- unsurprising given the intentionally misleading, semi-secretive nature of the band. "Iron Lemonade" from 2009's Eating Us made an appearance toward the end of the set, and they ended with "Sun Lips," leading to the ever-awkward "will they or won't they?" the Fine Line offers given the manner in which the band has to enter and exit the stage (i.e. walking directly through a portion of the crowd), while film of an impossibly creepy graveyard played on the stage's backdrop.
Photo by Erik Hess
They indeed returned just a couple of minutes later (there was no need to make the re-entry any more uncomfortable than it already was by waiting it out) and the three-song encore put a splendid stamp on what had already been a fairly spectacular night, ending with "Forever Heavy" from 2007's Dandelion Gum. The hour seemed to pass both more quickly and more slowly than it actually had, and that is why Black Moth Super Rainbow is exactly the sound of drugs -- they are somehow able to bend time to their own will (among other things) and while many bands operate in this general arena of music, no band does it better than BMSR does by a long shot.
Critic's Bias: I was sort of a passive fan of BMSR (meaning I liked it when I heard it but never sought it out on my own) but about two years ago a friend (whom I brought with me Monday) hauled out Dandelion Gum during a small gathering one evening and I was hooked. The live show sealed the deal.
The Crowd: Incredibly impolite and pushy/jostly, even by Fine Line standards. There are always tough sight lines in that room but Monday found many people attempting make space to stand where there simply wasn't any and there was much Minnesotan passive-aggression.
Overheard in the Crowd: "Now is the time ven ve dance!" said by the same friend from above who was poking fun at guy who was on something and having great difficulty dancing. He ended up looking very much like Dieter from those old SNL "Sprockets" sketches.
Notebook Dump: This band's name alone should be a tip-off for what the show is going to be like.
Photos by Erik Hess
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