“Oh Shit, I Forgot The Fucking Solo” Torche @ The Grog Shop 3/17

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Yes, Torche is one of those groups that, if you have seen them once, you are going to take the time to see them again. So, it makes sense that this St. Paddy’s, nearly 2 years since the last time I saw them (I stumbled into their set during Fest/ Halloween ‘13, dressed like a dead parrot and totally freaked out by a very drunk college-aged male in a pink rabbit suit raging next to me), I felt compelled to drive north to Cleveland’s Grog Shop, in order to catch them on the Ohio leg of the tour for Restarter, their most recent album released on February 24th on Relapse Records. Natives of that hot, swampy stretch of American land which stretches from the waist of Georgia to the Everglades, and 11 years deep into the evolution of their sounds, Torche (Steve Brooks, Jonathan Nuñez, Rick Smith, Andrew Elstner) is a band which, much like Florida’s green anole, knows how to work their environment. In previous years I’d watched them go apeshit a few times on stage when I lived deep in their territory of Gainesville FL (a town that, if anything, is certainly not known for its class or sobriety), and since I’d never seen them on a release tour, I was excited to see them in a very different city playing something fresh.

The venue where I found myself was pretty much most of what anyone could want from a place to hear very loud music. The space is compact, reddish, dark, and contains a well-wired speaker system. Everything sounds so great in there, and it’s a good thing too because Torche needs a whole lot of decibels to properly pump their noise into the audience’s ears. To prepare the audience, and apparently put The Grog Shop’s equipment to the test, the set opened with a gravely loop worked just off-stage by guitarist, Andrew Elstner to lead the rest of the band in. They approached the stage with the seriousness of a group who probably grew up treating their high school garage practice sessions like a seance.

And from then on it was all business.  Gigantic, sludgy, stoner business which confirmed that my choice to enjoy a fairly well-sized spliff before the show was indeed the correct course of action.

They immediately plunged into a full display of their new record, giving special attention to previously released single, “Minions” on the third stop in their line up. Their sound was practiced, cool, professional, and focused, somewhat of a change in attitude from the manic “fuck it” shit shows I’d seen in the past. In addition, Restarter’s architecture seems to have slightly expanded from previous records in that the songs display just a touch of pop texturing, enough to change up my previous expectations for stoner metal. It felt right though, their stage presence was engaged, but they did not rely on antics or banter to hold the crowd. They just were bringing it.

Halfway through the set, (or was it 3/4ths of the way? At this point I’d lost track, mesmerized and dodging upheld cellphones of fellow audience members who felt the same way), the guitarists announced they would no longer be playing music from Restarter, and would instead be playing “all the shit you don’t like” as they launched into older songs and shrugged through an incident with Steve Brooks’ microphone mysteriously cutting out. They were mistaken though in thinking no one would like the second half of their music, at this point the audience was hooked to the point where the band could have done anything remotely musical. So at the close of the encore when Steve Brooks suddenly declared “Oh Shit, I forgot the fffuuuuucking solo”, absolutely nobody cared that the last song was partially played twice.

 

Restarter is available via Relapse Records, and can be purchased/enjoyed here