Pittsburgh, PA based Black Moth Super Rainbow took the stage at U Street Music Hall on December 8 with little fanfare, walking to their instruments with heads down and impassive expressions on their faces. Staying true to their habit of turning the focus away from them to their music, drummer Iffernaut wore a sky mask, exposing a small oval of face, while guitarist Ryan Graveface never pulled back his hoodie. Vocalist Tobacco performed from behind an open suitcase covered by a t-shirt. Bass player Bullsmear and keyboard player The Seven Fields of Aphelion did not hide or alter appearances, but barely acknowledged being on stage.
BMSR keep to themselves. Private jokes float across stage and sideways glances and giggles seem to acknowledge the dichotomy of being unassuming while selling out clubs.
But the sold out crowd at U Hall didn’t seem to care, and let the music sweep them away. Somewhere in the back, a man in an overcoat, scarf and sunglasses twirled to the music, while groups of dancers undulated in the darkness with only glow bracelets and necklaces for light. Elsewhere, reversed baseball caps shared the space with plaid shirt/skinny jeans hipsters, illustrating the shifting pull of the band, drawing from hipsters and rave type dancers as its popularity increases.
The crowd reacted warmly to the opening chords of “The Wettest Day.” Singer Tobacco stayed behind the open suitcase, feeding all vocals through a synthesizer. Live, the effect is jarring at first, more so than on the recorded works, but quickly makes sense in the overall mix of synthesizers and keyboards. Throughout the set, the music was always just about ready to break out into an actual dance song, but never quite left the range of gentle rocking.
The set drew heavily on newer material from this year’s Psychic Love Damage EP and full album Cobra Juicy, including “Sunburn Fudge,” “Hairspray Heart,” and “Windshield Smasher.” Older cuts like “Dark Bubbles” from Eating Us and “Sun Lips” from Dandelion Gum were warmly received, but overall the audience didn’t seem to mind if the song was new or well-known, as long as the music kept flowing.
Throughout the show, the band maintained its impassive look and sense of remove, as if the music flowed through them and they were really helpless to stop it or even engage in it. It’s a façade that the band has maintained as it has its personnel anonymity, keeping a wall between the performers and the audience. Black Moth Super Rainbow makes music for dancing, and their stage presence is entirely focused on that goal. So as long as you were there to simply get down, then you left a satisfied customer. If, on the other hand you came to see a band perform live rather, you probably still left sweaty, but maybe just a little bit disappointed.
The set ended with “Caterpillar House” from Dandelion Gum. Its slightly murkier and muddled vocals and discordant instrumentation brought the room together in a wall of sound. After a brief departure, the band returned with “Windshield Smasher,” a real highlight from Cobra Juicy. They closed with Forever Heavy from Dandelion Gum, a quieter slower dirge that helped ease the audience back into the night.