Black Moth Super Rainbow – The Bowery Ballroom – December 5, 2012
Having never even heard a note of their music, based on their name, you could take an educated guess at what Black Moth Super Rainbow might sound like and you’d probably be mostly right. The name alludes to both some grandiose psychedelia (Super Rainbow) and the darkness behind it (Black Moth). But there are some other components going on with this band that their name won’t reveal. Even for those familiar with their music, seeing it performed live exposes some nuances. So let’s tackle these observations one a time:
1. For a band that blasts out some heavy psychedelic beats, they’re awfully unassuming about it. This is especially true of frontman Tobacco, who performed behind a silver suitcase with a T-shirt draped over it, hiding his face behind it and a baseball hat. Most other psych-rock frontmen are much more outwardly extroverted (think: Wayne Coyne of the Flaming Lips), but Tobacco comes off as shy, so much so that even having watched him over the course of an entire show, I’m not sure I could pick him out in a police lineup.
2. All vocals go through a synth vocoder, but they don’t always sound the same. Even between songs, when an audience member yelled, “Thank you,” Tobacco shot back a “You’re welcome” through the vocoder. Filtering all vocals through such heavy effects removes them a step further from their human source. Maybe this makes it easier for an introverted singer to perform. Regardless, it also gives Tobacco the chance to make vocals expressive by the effects thrown onto them. All Black Moth Super Rainbow vocals have that synth vocoder fuzzy warmth to them, but they also fall into a broader spectrum, changing slightly from song to song.
3. They sound much more rock when performed live. Maybe it’s because snare drums carry better in a live setting, or because the bass and guitar were turned up higher in the mix, but last night at The Bowery Ballroom, their songs were much more hard hitting than the recorded versions. Material off their latest, Cobra Juicy, sounded particularly rock heavy.
4. There’s a restrained sense of humor with this band that comes out every now and then. There were several images of various scenic shots projected onstage, including a slow-burning nuclear facility or an overgrown roadway. If you watched long enough, someone would inconspicuously pop up out of each scene and walk toward the camera, staring at it. It broke that fourth wall between the band and audience in a subtle way. (Also, the drummer wore a ninja mask the entire night without explaining why—which is pretty hilarious and also pretty badass.) —Dan Rickershauser
(Black Moth Super Rainbow play Music Hall of Williamsburg tonight.)