There are animatronic drums, dainty and careening synthesizers, and a purring vocoder controlled by Black Moth Super Rainbow's enigmatic frontman, Tom Fec (aka Tobacco). On tour in support of their expanded reissue of the seminal album "Dandelion Gum," the group took to Off Broadway Monday night to demonstrate how well their music translates from trippy recordings to an ethereal live experience.
Opening band, Marshmallow Ghosts, led by Ryan Graveface -- a member of Black Moth Super Rainbow and the founder of Graveface Records -- played a quick set of ghoulish, fuzzed out songs. Graveface wore what looked like a customized S&M mask with black and white stripes and a microphone inserted inside, while the bass player wore a French mime mask and the drummer wore a fluorescent pumpkin mask. Half the set, Graveface hid behind a large box probably containing a plethora of effect pedals and gadgets. He reappeared periodically to deliver distorted, indecipherable vocals.
The band played in front of a backdrop of surreal, horror-movie-styled visuals. Perhaps the visuals were from the band's own horror flick, "Corpse Reviver No. 2," which accompanies the October 11 release of Marshmallow Ghosts' debut self-titled album. The early crowd at Off Broadway seemed confused by the short set, which featured a heartfelt soliloquy from the girl bassist about her mother, a lot of noodling synthesizers and Graveface adjusting and readjusting the effects on his vocals.
Martin Dosh (aka Dosh), a Minneapolis native, took to the stage shortly after and threw down jam after jam using a deep cache of loop pedals, samplers and other instruments. His forte was the drums; he unleashed some funky beats, all the while looping them and controlling the mix from a giant mixing board. The unassuming maestro breezed through his time, which heavily featured playing and drumming on his Fender Rhodes keyboard. The wandering crowd got pretty chatty throughout Dosh's set, but Dosh got their attention when he threw a Radiohead jingle ("Everything Is In Its Right Place") into the mix.
Dosh's music had elements of jazz and electronic music, and his show was reminiscent of indie folk violinist Andrew Bird's, with whom Dosh is a frequent collaborator. Near the end of the set, Dosh announced he would be going to the City Museum and invited the crowd. It wouldn't be hard to picture Dosh's quirky loops echoing through the vast depths of St. Louis' most infamous playground.
Black Moth Super Rainbow got quite an ovation when they started their set. Ryan Graveface and the bassist from Marshmallow Ghosts resumed their positions on stage, alongside vocalist Tobacco and synth player, the Seven Fields of Aphelion. Led by the thrashing, ninja masked, drummer, d. kyler, the band kicked off a medley of songs from "Dandelion Gum."
Tobacco, the mastermind behind much of Black Moth's material, did not look like the typical frontman of a neo-psychedelic band. You'd almost expect some barefoot dude with unruly facial hair and a rainbow robe to be orchestrating all the swirling cosmic soundscapes. But the man controlling the vocoder and acting completely oblivious to the crowd was an average-looking guy who wore a baseball cap; with his fitted t-shirt you might even call him "buff." An interesting moment occurred in between songs when a crowd member yelled, "I want to hear your real voice!" His demand was ignored by Tobacco, who stoically adjusted his effects before another song.
This obliviousness to personality and the musicians' focused reliance on sound purifies their already unique brand of pyschedelic/electronic music. Seeing songs performed live like "The Afternoon Turns Pink" and "Jump Into My Mouth And Breathe Stardust" was a liberating experience. They had dizzying effects, lending themselves to just enjoying the music with your eyes closed.
Granted, there was a lot of stuff going on up on the stage while Black Moth hurtled through their songs. For starters, the electronics involved with putting on a show with so many layers of synths and effects make it hard not to try and peek into just what is going on. Tobacco, Seven Fields and Graveface all seemed to make adjustments within their equipment hoards prior to and during songs. It was very possible that in the hour or so they played, each member never played the same tones with their respective instruments, save kyler, who thrashed out on her drum kit's cymbals.
The band relied on static visuals of trees, graveyards and power plants projected behind them as they played. Every once in awhile the wind would blow the trees or a character wearing an animal mask would pop up in the projections. It kept things just bizarre enough for many audience members to keep their eyes open.
Black Moth Super Rainbow played a two-song encore, which included "Dandelion Gum's" most beloved tracks, "Forever Heavy" and "Sun Lips." Tobacco, not typically an axe man during live shows, played a guitar through some zany distortion, while Graveface strummed a banjo in awesome renditions of the BMSR classics.
By the end, the Off Broadway crowd had gotten rowdy and expressed their gratitude long after the band had departed from the stage. By the looks of the wide-eyed fans shuffling out of the venue, it was clear that Black Moth Super Rainbow had blown a few minds and cured any lingering case of the Mondays.