Live Picks! With Tony Porreco: Black Hills, The Mean Season, & Badknight at Velvet Lounge

Live Picks! with Tony Porreco


Who: Black Hills, The Mean Season, Badknight

Where: Velvet Lounge

When: Friday April 26, 9 PM

Song You Must Hear Today:  “Quiet Ghosts”

I’m incredibly curious to see Black Hills live this Friday, and for so many reasons.  The outfit is the electro-pop project of audio production mastermind Aaron Estes, who sounds like a pretty interesting guy himself.  1. The dude teaches trapeze.  2.  He also one of the sound guys at the Black Cat, so I feel like I already have some kind of connection to the man, as he’s undoubtedly been responsible for the sound at dozens of shows I’ve been to at that venue over the years.

The project’s one EP, Black Gold, was released in October of 2011, and contains a scant four tracks.  That’s not a slam on the EP, as each song is of an immensely high caliber.  First cut “In My Dreams” sounds less like an album opener in that the listener is immediately dunked into the twirling interplay of cycling acoustic guitar arpeggios and chirping keyboard lines before Estes’ vocals make an abrupt entrance.  But the real fun begins at the 30 second mark when Estes turns on the synth-jacuzzi hot tub.  “Quiet Ghosts” has all the electronic squalls and jittery percussion sounds of late aughts-era Of Montreal.  Then there’s “Glass”, whose big beat/creepy-cool intro simply oozes cool.

I’m also excited to see how one guy’s bedroom project gets transformed into a live act, a la chillwave big boys Toro y Moi.  The act’s Facebook page lists 6 other musicians being involved in the live execution of Black Hills.  Now, I have no clue how many of those will be in tow on Friday, but Black Hills makes pretty layered music, so I doubt the extra manpower will go to waste.

In sum, everything I know about Black Hills leaves me feeling teased from afar.  I’m really looking forward to Friday’s show because (a.) I’ll get to hear at least a few new Black Hills songs and (b.) Estes’ development in the last year and half since Black Gold will be on display.

Last night, I almost let my curiosity get the best of me.  Almost.  A couple of weeks ago, Estes performed at The Hamilton as part of Brightest Young Things “DC Emerging Artists” showcase and someone shot some video of Black Hills’ set.  Intrigued, I clicked the play button.  An ad began to play before the video started, so I had a moment to consider the ramifications of what I was about to do.  Did I really want to eat from the Internet’s Tree of Knowledge, glimpse the future, and spoil my Friday night show experience?  NO.  I Xed the vid, and went back to my Buzzfeed photo reel of dogs being bad at hide-and-seek.

Note: Local three piece The Mean Season headlines the show this Friday.  They play contemplative, mellow female-fronted indie rock that’s quite tasty (I saw them in March), and their drum kit includes an empty Jameson bottle.

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