By Alex Hudson
March 10, 2017
VANCOUVER – Black Mountain and Destroyer are two of Vancouver’s most celebrated indie rock exports, but sharing a bill, they make for a slightly strange pairing. While Destroyer is known for poetic, cerebral songwriting, Black Mountain specializes in devil-horn-raising hard rock, making for a enjoyable but slightly uneven night.
Following a ho-hum selection of organ-driven dance rock from Dutch duo zZz, Destroyer mastermind Dan Bejar took the stage with an acoustic guitar for this solo performance. While Destroyer’s album arrangements are lushly ornate, Bejar stripped his songs down to their bare essentials. His far-ranging selection of material ranged from brand new cuts (the set-opening “Stay Lost”) to older numbers (2001’s “English Music”) and every in between. After each song, Bejar would step back and bow deeply before crouching for a sip of whiskey and a swig of beer.
The enthusiastic applause showed that Destroyer had plenty of fans in the house, but some attendees appeared to be simply killing time until the hard rocking headliners. This meant that the audience was chatty, and Bejar’s delicate moments were practically drowned out by the British dude standing next to me who was speaking at the top of his lungs about Testament.
Those waiting for noisy riffs would need to be patient, since Black Mountain opened their set with the eponymous ballad “Black Mountain.” Starting with only vocalists Stephen McBean (who also played guitar) and Amber Webber, the rest of the band gradually filed on stage to flesh out the ghostly number. After that, they cranked the volume for “Stormy High,” paving the way for a set filled with Zeppelin-esque fretboard fireworks, horror-movie synths and epic jams. Highlights included the hypnotic stoner rock grooves of “Wucan” and the grandiose loud-quiet-loud dynamics of “Mothers of the Sun.”
As powerful as the songs were, the overall effect was woozy rather than invigorating: this mystical sludge was better suited to blissing out rather than headbanging or moshing. This meant that the mood began to get a little sleepy as the clock crept past midnight and fans began gradually exiting during yet another lengthy jam. But even if neither of the main acts were quite at the top of their game, they left no doubt that they are among our city’s best.Black Mountain, Destroyer, Vancouver, Vogue Theatre, zZz