photos + review: black moth super rainbow + casket girls @ u street music hall 12.7.2012

If you’re a fan of Black Moth Super Rainbow, you probably don’t care about over the top lighting or choreographed dances, you just want a memorable show. If you were at U Street Music Hall on Saturday, you got exactly that: straightforward detailed songs sprinkled with occasionally ebullient melodies.

There were a few moments where I had to pause and ask myself what exactly I was watching, but I found myself enamoured of Casket Girls. Elsa and Phaedra Greene ended up working with Ryan Graveface of Black Moth Super Rainbow after he stumbled upon them playing autoharp, and the three combined Graveface’s love of Shangri-La’s 60s psychedelia with experimental burlesque. The Greene sisters contribute doting lyrics reminiscent of the era delivered in a strangely seductive droning whisper, and took turns playing bass. “Walking on a Wire” and “Sleepwalking” demonstrate vocals almost too cheery to fit into their sound, placed in stark contrast to the dark buzz surrounding them.

While the burlesque inspired choreography and crowd interaction brought intrigue to their performance, the Greene Sisters could do with adding wider dynamic range to their set. The static volume of their performance could easily turn it into a bizarrely sexual lullaby, instead of the captivating display it should be. I’m all for weird girls doing their own thing, but Casket Girls obviously have lively imaginations that should be louder, maybe even aggressive.

Following that oddly stimulating display, Black Moth Super Rainbow are a welcome sight. No costumes, no gimmicks, simply a dedicated performance of an honest set. And why would they need dance moves or light shows? BMSR’s music speaks for itself, and honestly, the enigmatic members don’t have time to waste on anything else. Kicking off the set with two from the Psychic Love Damage EP, BMSR had an extremely awkward sold out crowd either dancing while very high, dancing sober but attempting to appear high, or headbanging so furiously that I was concerned someone was going to get whiplash. Whether or not you were a newcomer with only a few listens of Cobra Juicy under your belt, or a long time fan who recognized the one Tobacco cover in the set (“Constellation Dirtbike Head”), everyone was producing some strange movement as a sign of appreciation.

I spent the first part of the set waiting for things to get weird. Having never seen a BMSR performance, I expected that there would be sporadic bouts of, well, random whatever throughout the set, but much to my amusement, it was serious. The band is absolutely serious about delivering these carefully crafted songs perfectly, driving people to move in whatever way they do, and being in constant silent communication with each other while they do it. You can see it in the small fleeting smiles, especially from Seven Fields of Aphelion’s face– a transient display of contentment that everything is so far, so good, that her fellow bandmates are nailing the difficult parts they’ve challenged themselves with.

And it’s hard not to appreciate a band that completes an album after pouring constant effort into it, only to scrap it because they believe their fans deserve more for their money. There’s no room for bullshit, no shortcuts, no distractions– it comes across in every aspect of their performance, with the exception of Casket Girls’ drummer prancing around the stage shirtless during the encore. Surprisingly enough, a little bit of weird goes a long way.