(Iasos, performing "Rapture of the Heart" back in '06)
Brightblack Morning Light
Tuesday, Oct. 14, 2008
Cafe du Nord
Words by Jennifer Maerz
Better than: The "old" New Age
You may be the kinda person who, living in Northern California and all, likes to smoke weed.
You may even be the kinda hipster who smokes weed, collects cool looking rocks and crystals, reads Arthur cover to cover (without skipping the sections on casting spells on large corporations), listens to spaced out instrumental music to ease your thoughts on occasion, and combs your hair/beard no more than once a week. But you haven't leaped across any cultural voids until you take one of the inventors of New Age music on tour as your opening act. Until that day comes, you've got nothing on Brightblack Morning Light -- the anti-corporate, anti-nuclear, anti-coal, anti-conventional pop band living off the grid in every way possible.
When Brightblack came to town for the first of its two-night run at Cafe du Nord last night, core duo Rabob and Nabob weren't traveling alone. They'd invited as an opening act a 61-year-old Greek man named Iasos (who also opens their show tonight). According to Iasos' Web site (or "star gate") he began manifesting "heavenly music" in the late '60s. By 1975, the dude had released the first "New Age" CD, along with a man named Steven Halpern, and has since created a plethora of titles ranging from "The Crystal Vista" to "Beauty", earning him kudos like the Crystal Award and The Lotus Light Award as he provides soundtracks for massage therapists everywhere.
(Iasos, performing "The Pipes of Pan")
Last night, Iasos unveiled his latest work, "Realms of Light," and I'm still not sure that Brightblack fans knew what hit us. The video was a brightly colored pastiche of rainbows and flowing bodies of water and sparkly stars and women in scarves fading into other rainbows and flowing bodies of water and sparkly stars and women in gold lame. There were no words, but rather a loud (which later became ear splitting, as Iasos "adjusted" the volume) backing soundtrack of synth music not unlike the opening intro to Europe's 1986 pop metal hit "The Final Countdown." Iasos had obviously put a lot of work into this one.
The crowd was split between the folks who were just gonna get into it and sit cross-legged on the floor for all 40 minutes, and the ones around me in the back, who were both sarcastically and completely stunned. One friend commented that Dan Deacon uses a very similar visual display, while another guy near me told his friend "this reminds me of those old corporate videos they used to make."
Watching "Realms of Light" was like watching a stranger get a naked massage in a communal hot tub-- there was a super hippie dippie vibe thing going on that I just could not hang with. Everyone draws the line somewhere and I pull out the chalk during 40 minute videos of bubbles and crystals and babbling brooks. I'm way too cynical to dig this "celestial music." But hey, I do applaud Brightblack Morning Light for making the show a truly singular experience populated by whatever belief system they've adopted out there in the New Mexico sticks.
As for Brightblack's set, it was hands down the best performance I've seen from the band. With Rabob and Nabob rounded out by a couple percussionists (one of whom pulled out the trombone a couple times), and a second guy on keys*, there was no rainbow gimmickry to the music. It was slow, stoned, soul-infused pop rolling out with a warmth that you rarely hear in this kind of music. Most lysergic sounding bands either chase darkness or evaporate in vapors of twee. Brightblack's sound is huge and full, with restrained beats keeping time like a jazz act, and Nabob banging his head as his hands strummed out lush guitar melodies, and Rabob swinging her long hair around as she pounded out the grooves on her keyboards.
I've seen the band play at the Fillmore, and they've been swallowed up by the size of the room. Du Nord was much more fitting of a space, with low ceilings and dark lighting adding to the enveloping feeling the group's music brings.
Like their buddy Iasos, Brightblack Morning Light create some pretty "celestial, heavenly, inter-dimensional music." Rabob and Nabob just don't need neon videos to express it -- although they do like to boggle the eyeballs just a little...