Review: Black Moth Super Rainbow go ape at Crowbar
Locals edged shoulder to shoulder with dedicated out-of-towners as the main room rapidly filled at Crowbar in Ybor City on Friday. It was packed by 10:30 p.m. Opening acts GreyMarket and Serengeti & Polyphonic amped up the already energy-driven and possibly drug-influenced crowd, tiding them over for the main act, Black Moth Super Rainbow.
Some attendants had never heard of Black Moth Super Rainbow. Some, like me, were familiar with the music. The rest of the crowd appeared to be committed fans, lining the front of the stage eager for the chance to see the magic behind BMSR's music unfold up close.
Admittedly, I was skeptical, as every time I tried to listen to their albums casually, the music proved to be incompatible with my mood. But now, on this night, with this crowd, in this venue, it seemed promising.
By 11:30 p.m., a sign was posted on the front door of the venue, "Sold Out." Outside, fans were offering to pay twice the ticket price to be let inside.
Shortly after midnight, the lights dimmed and a video projection captivated the crowd's attention. It started with a computer-generated introduction with satirical skits, including one where the band is introduced as being one of the top five worst bands. The speaker went on to cite some of the musical criticisms of BMSR: Bizarre, noise, unbearable, robotic vocals, music for printers, and eventually self-described douche bags.
Members Tobacco, The Seven Fields of Aphelion, Iffernaut and Father Hummingbird all chose stage monikers in an attempt to keep the real-life band separate from the music. So when the band entered, a faux singer stole the stage with his abstract ensemble: a black, white and grey gorilla suit with a facemask of a long-haired, bearded Asian man. Applause filled the at-capacity room. The remaining members filled their posts, with Iffernaut the drummer donning a black scarf that covered most of her face. The band appeared to perform in the stage background and let gorilla man do all the spotlight entertaining.
For the next hour, the main audience was in a constant state of movement. They twirled glow sticks and danced like nothing else mattered. The ones in the front were forced to support gorilla man's numerous, relentless crowd-surfing maneuvers. His microphone cord was continuously tangled in the sea of participants.
The background video projections complimented the psychedelic sound with the most random footage; insects, skeletons, distorted images, clowns, a man's torso made into a face. It became apparent that the lip-synching gorilla frontman was all show, and that the vocals came from BMSR's true frontman, Tobacco, who was huddled over equipment and a microphone at the back of the stage alongside the other band members, The Seven Fields of Aphelion on keyboards and monosynth, Father Hummingbird on keyboards and polysynth and Ryan Graveface on bass and guitar. BMSR is known for its use of vintage equipment, including a vocoder Tobacco uses to alter his vocals.
From what I was able to gather from the crowd, most of the setlist was pulled from their two most recent albums Dandelion Gum and Eating Us, including the tracks Melt Me, We are the Pagans, Zodiac Girls, Twin of Myself, Born on a Day the Sun Didn't Rise, Caterpillar House, and Forever Heavy. In between songs, gorilla man would slide stage left and remove his mask to swig some brew or yell something random into his mic, like, "I want to thank Creed!”
A third of the way into the show, as I'm trying to not get burned by cigarettes and kicked in the head by gorilla man, I realized that I was really enjoying myself. The crowd was friendly, some totally engulfed in the moment and others slightly bewildered by the sound, but contented in the vibe. Despite my previous judgments of BMSR, they were surprisingly good live -- better than any recorded version I've heard. Maybe it was witnessing the live execution, or possibly the video projections, or maybe even the antics of gorilla man. Regardless, the show was as engrossing as it was audibly uplifting. At one point some 30-odd fans were onstage dancing alongside the band and gorilla.
Near the end, a merch vendor dubbed "hype guy" joined gorilla man on stage in an effect to jolt the crowd. It worked. Hype guy pretty much just repeated, "Black Moth Super Rainbow!" which in turn caused the dense crowd to become a wave of swaying bodies, pushing aimlessly back and forth and side to side, almost falling onto one another. Everyone was laughing and smiling, as was the band. Gorilla man was so active he even managed to knock over the projector during one of his surfing sessions. BMSR performed barely an hour before ending around 1:15 a.m.
The only complaint I heard was that the show was 18 and up, so many young fans were prevented from attending.
Once upon a time, I might have told you to forgo the abstract and sometimes annoying electronica of Black Moth Super Rainbow, but after Friday's show, I'd say try it out and, if you can, see them live to truly capture the full essence and energy of their music. Even if you have no idea what is going on.
-- Stephanie Bolling, tbt*