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Black Heart Procession

at Great American Music Hall

If the San Diego music scene were likened to high school, Creeper Lagoon would be the varsity quarterback, Hot Snakes would be the punk skater kid perennially stuck in detention, and the Black Heart Procession would be the guy who smokes cigarettes across the street during lunch - the one who wears eyeliner and is always doodling in a sketchbook. He wears mismatched converse and hangs out in the art room all day. He's usually alone unless he's sharing a smoke with Pinback, the two are kindred spirits though Pinback is a bit more well-adjusted. Black Heart's parents send him to numerous counselors and they're worried he has a drug problem. Perhaps you were this kid in high school, or sat next to him in English. Maybe you even made fun of him. Well, now's your chance for redemption or the opportunity to get reacquainted when The Black Heart Procession take the stage at the Great American Music Hall Sunday.

This Southern California trio make music that sounds nothing like the land of sunshine and beaches they hail from. Sometimes it sounds like a stormy night in the backwoods of Oregon, or a smoldering campfire in the expansive California Desert, maybe even a steamy evening in a dilapidated bar south-of-the-border but it is rarely fun and it is always dark. The Black Heart Procession make hauntingly beautiful music that somehow makes a painful place welcoming. Heartbreak and loneliness become rich, emotive tunes and overwhelming sadness is transformed into a pleasing rhapsody of sound. Their first three albums, aptly title 1, 2 and Three, play like the soundtrack of a dark, twisted carnival. Their most recent album, 2002's Amore Del Tropico, tells the story of a scorned lover's murderous revenge in Central America.

Pall Jenkins and Tobias Nathaniel are the black heart and soul of the Black Heart Procession which formed after the break-up of Three Mile Pilot, Jenkins' and Nathaniel's former muse. The duo engage a number of friends and fellow San Diego musicians, most often Joe Plummer and Dimitri Dziensuwski, to make guest appearances playing a variety of instruments on their albums and on tour, creating a stage presence that ranges from three to eight people. Guitar and piano arrangements layered with sparse drums lay the foundation for many of their songs as Pall Jenkins' heartbreaking yet comforting vocals breathe in and out of the melody. But it is their varied instrumentation that ranges from the common to the absurd that creates their distinct, dramatic sound. An oft-played pump organ adds that twisted carnivalesque quality. Sheetmetal, yes, sheetmetal, and a saw give their music a lonely backwoods sound and the toy piano Nathaniel plays adds a somewhat creepy but ultimately delicate layer to their already loaded work. Moog, Wurlitzer piano, clavinet, trumpet, tuba and various strings round out the eclectic list of instruments that help create their moody sound.

Whatever your high school social scene, you will find the Black Heart Procession's melancholy engaging, their sadness embracing. Let their eerie intensity get you in touch with your inner loner.