Black Mountain + Night Terrors @ The Zoo, 17.02.2011

The third of my three mid-week nights at The Zoo; tonight it’s Black Mountain Thursday, which comes after Swervedriver Wednesday and Caribou Tuesday. Gentle Ben Friday and Good Vibrations Saturday are yet to come and they’re stories for another time.

Despite knowing the least about Black Mountain and their music it ends up being my favourite of the three nights; maybe I enjoy it so much because I don’t know anything about them.

Unlike the previous two nights, there’s only one support band tonight, Melbourne’s Night Terrors, and with an instrumental mix of Krautrock and 80’s electronica complete with lead Theremin for most of the songs, it’s a hugely enjoyable and interesting set and gets the night off to a good start and definitely a change from the more typical guitar-based indie rock band that would have been expected to support Black Mountain.

Straight from the off Black Mountain have me hooked. Unlike the Swervedriver gig the previous night, the sound is crisp, clean and loud, not at all muddy, which makes a massive difference. In the first three songs I’m at the front photographing the band, watching the individuals play close up and also being able to study the interplay between the band is fascinating; the interplay always one of my favourite things about seeing live music. Lead singer Amber Webber remains silent between songs (with co-singer and guitarist Stephen McBean doing all the talking) and during the songs, which more often than not turn into extended jams, she is constantly turning to McBean or to keyboard player Jeremy Schmidt as if for guidance or reassurance, at times picking up her tambourine or maracas and joining in with the rest of the band, rather than just standing there staring into space. Particularly outstanding tonight is Josh Wells’ Keith Moon style of drumming, a procession of never-ending fills more than a traditional beat, something that not only sounds fantastic but is also a joy to watch and try to photograph.

The band play for too long, but then the majority of bands do, and if they’d played for maybe an hour, instead of the ninety minutes they’re on stage for tonight, I think I would have enjoyed the night even more; being left with a feeling of wanting more rather than feeling that it was more than enough.

Andrew McMillen’s review for The Vine says that the there was a surprising absence of charisma on stage and that the band seemed disinterested and tired but it wasn’t an issue for me and I didn’t notice any sign of tiredness (but as with when the New Pornographers played in November it might have just been jet-lag). Sometimes you need an artist to engage more with the audience (Evan Dando’s show at The Zoo springs to mind) but when you’re playing heavy psychedelic stoner rock I don’t think there’s much more you can add to the proceedings. Ultimately there’s enough to admire tonight without the need to add anything in the gaps between songs.

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