I’ll say this for Black Moth Super Rainbow: The band has some super enthusiastic fans. The Pittsburgh psych-pop group has been around for almost a decade now, and in that time it’s attained a small, loyal army of like-minded individuals who love the band with a level of commitment one might typically associate with more conventionally emotive acts like the Hold Steady or the Mountain Goats. Before the show even starts I spot multiple hallmarks of hardcore fanaticism: people asking each other how many shows they’ve seen, discussions of following the band across the country, starstruck comments about witnessing DJ sets from the band’s lead singer, a dude wearing a horse mask. These people are ready.
Touring behind its surprisingly accessible and tender new album, Cobra Juicy, which was partially funded through fan support on Kickstarter, the band takes the stage in an unassuming manner. While Black Moth Super Rainbow has a reputation for being enigmatic (and for wearing masks), only the drummer, Iffernaut, sports elaborate headgear, and even that quickly became a do-rag as the show progresses.
The set takes a few songs to gain momentum, but eventually the band tears into “Hairspray Heart,” with its crunching T. Rex riff and its repeated refrain of “Like a fucking diamond,” and the energy in the room builds. But, despite that peak, the group remains committed to obfuscation. Cobra Juicy‘s prettiest, most heartfelt song, “Psychic Love Damage,” is slowed down to a crawl, becoming swampier and murkier than its comparable buoyant album version. Older material, like the Eating Us cut “Iron Lemonade,” elicits big cheers from the crowd, and as the show continues, the band digs deeper into certain grooves, letting Ryan Graveface’s guitars get heavier, the synth squiggles noisier, the drums louder, the vocals hazier.
Performing in front of images of industrial sprawl—smoke stacks, open roads, the occasional image of a tree—Black Moth Super Rainbow welcomes you to get lost in its loose, irreverent sensibility, made especially easy with all the pot smoke swirling in the air. I even find myself wishing the band would be more indulgent; let that psychedelic flag fly. The set ends at almost exactly 45 minutes after a little bit of climactic vamping, and the band returns with a less muscular version of Cobra Juicy opener “Windshield Smasher.”
Lead singer Tobacco, sporting a winter coat and a baseball hat that makes him look more like a t-ball coach than an eccentric outsider artist, spends most of the show bent over his vocoder suitcase, singing into the mic like he’s trying to tell a secret to a demon. Where on record the constant vocoder becomes a charming affectation, in a live setting it feels like more of a distancing device. The singer’s only acknowledgment of the crowd comes mid-show when someone yells thank you and he responds (in robo-voice) with a polite, “You’re welcome.” It’s appreciated.