Your 33 Black Angels at the Velvet Lounge


Brooklyn-based Your 33 Black Angels performed at the Velvet Lounge in the District. (Kyle Gustafson/FTWP)
February 13, 2012

In their native Brooklyn, Your 33 Black Angels are known for frenetic, unpredictable shows. Sunday night at the Velvet Lounge, the ’60s-rooted band started slowly, and there was no particular reason to expect it to pick up speed. After all, the seven musicians were playing in a room the temperature of a walk-in meat locker, and for a crowd that barely outnumbered them. But the Angels managed to warm themselves up, and by the end of the set they were performing as if to a full house.

The band’s personnel is known to vary, so the lineup that performed Sunday may not be definitive. With three guitars and a keytar jostling over the rhythm section, the potential for chaos was high. Perhaps that’s why the group started with slower, tidier material that suggested either the Doors (if it was stately and keyboard-driven) or the Rolling Stones in their Gram-Parsons-is-my-personal-guru period (if it was twangy and a little wasted). For such examples of the latter mode as “Modern Girl” and “English Accents,” it didn’t hurt that tambourine-twirling lead singer Josh Westfal matched a Jagger-like vocal weariness to a look that was pure Brian Jones: fur coat, scarf worn like a tunic and a shoulder-length mop of light-brown hair.

Although Westfal’s voice has been compared to Lou Reed’s, the Angels’ affinity to the Velvets was most obvious when they locked into a “Foggy Notion”-style vamp. None of the songs lasted as long as the near-epic numbers on the band’s brand-new album, “Moon and Morning Star,” yet the interlocking guitars sometimes surged into what seemed like an eternal groove. The band’s set felt longer than its roughly 35-minute duration — but in a good way.

The opening act, In Your Memory, played hard rock with jazz chops and punk energy. On first exposure, the D.C. quartet’s skills seemed stronger than its songs, but its hookier tunes argued for a second listen.

Jenkins is a freelance writer.

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