When: July 31, 2011
Where: Bluebird Theater, Denver, Colo.
With: Big Business, Helms Alee
By Andrew Wilhelm (Denver)
Torche and Big Business: both are bands I passionately adored, fell out of favor with, and fell back in hard. Why did I abandon them in the first place?
Love's a fucking battlefield. And war is beautiful, as Torche once said on "Charge of the Brown Recluse."
Due to some list issues, or as I would refer to it on Twitter #whitepeopleproblems, I missed the first part of Helms Alee's set. Outside the venue, the Seattle trio sounded like a wash, but once I sorted out my credentials, I was most digging them. Like their tourmates, they realize that heavy and catchy are not mutually exclusive, but their angle involves taking a great deal from their hometown's heritage (if one can call it that). They did a better Mudhoney than when I actually saw Mudhoney! I wish I could have seen more of them, but I will make it a point not to miss them next time they roll through.
Up until this fateful evening, I never accepted the fact that Big Business added a guitar player. For whatever stupid justification my college self prescribed, guitar had no place in the bass and drum (NOT drum-n-bass, that would be a sonic shift I wouldn't expect even Blake Judd to make) rockin' potion. Thankfully, I have been cured of that ignorance with no sign of remission. Scott Martin, Big Business' six-stringer, adds that extra touch of noise and uncertainty with his playing, but the bass and drums still drive the sound. Watching them, it's easy to see why they're the younger half of the Melvins. Even if Jarred Warren's fro is more "play that funky music white boy" than Sideshow Bob, he's got a lotta King Buzzo in his voice in case the King of Kings runs out of street cred to buy property with. Coady Willis, with his Ted Nugent/Michael Jackson/Esoteric headset mic, made the most of abusing his small kit. With a band so dependent on the almighty rhythm, he made everyone sweat - players and audience - and really added swing and propulsion to the set. That was the course du jour for the majority of the set, including such club bangers as "Grounds for Divorce" and "Focus Pocus," but "Guns" changed the game by concluding with layers upon layers of noise. My faith in Big Biz has been restored.
There was once a period where I never missed a Torche show and never raged less than 200%. NEVER. Then Juan Montoya left the band and I thought "they can't make it as a three-piece!" A back-to-back set of gigs in Chicago last year with a new second axeman, as well as this gig, not only convinced that Torche still have it, but they're a stronger unit now. Torche used to be all about volume, and while they are still quite loud, Steve Brooks must have gotten fed up with not hearing his own voice. They are much clearer than they used to be without losing an ounce balls. As I noted in my Floor live review a year back, Brooks' discovering of his inner cock rock has had him more fun to watch, and he kept it up for this show. In the weirdest display of brodom I've seen, someone threw a pair of cargo shorts on stage, and Brooks wrapped them around his mic stand ala Aerosmith. Real talk, though, I would rather be Brooks' groupie than Steven Tyler's.
Song-wise, their set is still quite Meanderthal heavy. That album has some of their strongest cuts - "Healer," "Across the Shields" and "Grenades" among them - so Decibel's 2008 AOTY is still spot on live. While I mentioned earlier that Torche have traded tinnitus-fostering practices for a more balanced sound, the bomb string didn't go unused. For the encore, Torche tickled their super-heavy side with "Recluse" and Z-tuning classic "Tarpit Carnivore." Lamentably, no "King Beef," as Brooks and co. must have not been feeling too Godflesh-y that day. It would have also been interesting to see the melancholic "Face the Wall," from Songs for Singles, temporarily mope up the party vibe.
My love is true, Torche and Big Business, and it will never flee again.