Wednesday night. That no-man’s-land of an evening between weekends. But not tonight. It’s only 8pm and the Electric Ballroom is filling up fast, with an eclectic crowd that ranges from bright-eyed kids to dreadlocked crusties, sharp-collared mods to balding over-50s. Not your usual small-gig crowd but The Black Angels seem to inspire every reaction from passing curiosity to total dedication.
But first, the support band. You can always rely on ATP to put together a top bill, and tonight is no exception. Elephant Stone are that rarest of species – a decent opening act; the kind that you drag your mates out of the pub to see. And they don’t disappoint. The set kicks off in full-on 60s Wall of Sound heartbreak mode, with vocals that bring to mind The Pains of Being Pure at Heart. Over the rest of their set they descend into acid psychosis and back again, with sonic nods to My Bloody Valentine and the Beatles at their Ravi Shankar-worshipping peak. There is one unfortunate track that sounds like a bad Lightning Seeds B-side, but other than that they play a blinder, setting the bar high for the main event.
By this time the venue is almost full, so we shove our way to the bar for pints. The crowd is definitely in party mode (as witnessed by a particularly enthusiastic Britney Spears singalong in the ladies’ toilets), and the atmosphere when the Black Angels take the stage is euphoric, and it’s not just because of their Star Wars-esque lightshow. Vocals reverbed up to an almost church-like level, guitars ricocheting off the walls, gut-rumbling scuzz and drone underneath it all – the Electric Ballroom suddenly feels far too tiny for a sound this big.
The set rolls and swells through tracks from new album ‘Indigo Meadow’ as well as older efforts, with the crowd lapping it all up eagerly. Recent single ‘Don’t Play With Guns’ brings a sugar-high hit of pop to these psychedelic proceedings, but some of the biggest cheers are reserved for favourites from 2010’s ‘Phosphene Dream’. ‘Entrance Song’ sees the ecstatic masses bathed in a wash of red light, and later on ‘Haunting at 1300 McKinley’ has the air filled with fists and voices alike. The main set ends on an extended and seriously trippy version of ‘True Believers’, with sitars galore and the pervasive scent of hash.
The band return to the stage for an encore that ends up running to nearly half an hour, but sadly there’s a bit of a mass exodus after about ten minutes. Perhaps it’s the curse of Wednesday night, perhaps all that passive spliff-smoking has tired them out; either way it’s a shame the band don’t get to leave the stage to the same adulation that heralded the end of the main set. One thing I can say, as I stumble off into the night, is that I’ll be hard pressed to find a better cure for the midweek blues than this.