Black Mountain took the small stage at the Casbah (check out the picture below to see how little room there is for the players once all the equipment is set up) and put on an epic show. They began with the first two songs, “Mothers of the Sun” and “Florian Saucer Attack”, off of IV, their highly anticipated new LP. These numbers set the stage perfectly for the rest of this alternately restrained, heavy, doomy, proggy and mostly really fucking loud show!
Add in the main set’s closing number, the 9-minute opus “Space to Bakersfield”, and if these song titles suggest a hint of prog rock from years past, you’d be right on the money. Keyboardist Jeremy Schmidt utilized his Moog synthesizer throughout the set, but especially on the new songs like the first two and others like “Defector” and “You Can Dream”. The Moog added a retro layer – like Rush circa “Tom Sawyer” – to Black Mountain’s already varied sound. I spoke with Schmidt after the show and he confirmed that the band is a fan of that era and style of music and it just fit naturally with the songs they were writing for this album.
In all, Black Mountain played eight of the ten tracks off of IV – which arrived just a couple of months ago after a wait of nearly six years since their last album, the excellent Wilderness Heart. I asked songwriter/guitarist Stephen McBean about the long gap between albums and he said that it was filled with A LOT of touring for Black Mountain, plus all the members have side projects with which they record and tour as well; so actually they had all been quite busy. He did share that he believes the next Black Mountain LP will come along much quicker this time.
Along with the new material they sprinkled songs from throughout their catalog. “Stormy High”, from their second album, In the Future, followed the initial 1-2 punch from IV and showed just how heavy and massive Black Mountain can sound. Next up was “Drugonaut” off their self-titled debut record, which came out in 2005. This song starts off with a rolling bass line and funky wah wah guitar and then slowly builds until it ends with an extended psychedelic freak-out of a guitar solo. Then a couple songs later we got the set-piece, “Tyrants”, which starts with Joshua Wells laying down a long, pummeling drum part as the guitar, keys and bass join together for a heroic introduction. This is followed by a quiet, melodic section featuring McBean and singer Amber Webber joining together on vocals. This interlude is just a feint though as the song builds from that towards a monumental riff and guitar solo from McBean.
While Black Mountain’s sound can be as immense as their name suggests, they also know how to provide contrast and space in their music, as all of the instruments and voices have a chance to shine on their own while still completely meshing with each other. Singer/guitarist Amber Weber provides much of the balance to Black Mountain’s sound with her clear, and at times haunting, vibrato-laden vocals. It is her voice as much as McBean’s huge guitar sound that helps Black Mountain stand out from the pack. Make no mistake though – when they decide to cut loose – they are as loud as any group I’ve ever heard. Standing near the stage during the final song, “Don’t Run Our Hearts Around”, I felt like I was taking the music in through my entire body and not just my ears.
Here’s the setlist I submitted for the show: Black Mountain Setlist
Side Note: I had chance to speak with Amber Webber after the show and asked her a couple of questions. I mentioned that the last time I saw her was there at the Casbah with her band Lightning Dust. This group, which includes BM’s drummer Joshua Wells, is a much mellower and more melodic affair than the mother group. I asked if she minded coming back to the small, though prestigious Casbah, after playing the larger/nicer Belly Up tavern the last time Black Mountain came through town. She reminded me that The Black Angels basically co-headlined that show with them, otherwise they wouldn’t have been able to book it. She also said that she really liked the Casbah and how enthusiastic the fans were whenever they played there.
Learn more about Black Mountain and buy their records here at Jagjaguwar