I signed up… to cover a show… on a Monday. That’s how my already exhausted brain reminded me of Torche’s long-awaited return to Grand Rapids on the afternoon of the gig. It’s absolutely not that I wasn’t excited for it because I’d been joyously telling everyone about it in the days leading up to it, but truthfully my heart’s just been bummed out lately. As much as I wanted to wallow alone until right before the show, I decided I needed to just get up and get out of the house.
Going to The Pyramid Scheme an hour and a half early to see who was hanging out was the right choice as I was instantly greeted by my best friend, Kim, who was working the front doors. I hung around with her for a bit while she checked IDs and I waited to meet up with MattO (check out his great photos in the below gallery). At one point, Kim carded Steve Brooks when he came in without even realizing he was one of Torche’s guitarists/vocalists. As he walked through he looked and pointed at me and very sweetly said with a smile, “That’s a cool shirt!” I don’t really get star struck anymore but in that moment all I could do was glance down at my METZ Japan Tour shirt, look back up and reply, “Uhh…thanks!” like a big dork. When he was out of earshot, I told Kim who he was and she casually suggested that the band members should be referred to as “Torchers.” Great idea, bud. Great idea.
MattO and I wandered through the bar to the venue area to catch the local opener, Crooked Heart. One time I shared a stage with the guitarist/vocalist, Elijah Wyman at an Alkaline Trio tribute show we threw for our friends’ daughter’s birthday, but admittedly I’d never heard his actual band until now. Honestly, I’m usually not into “Alternative Rock” branded bands so I wasn’t sure what to expect. I feel like a lot of the time it’s just the singing in bands like that that turn me off as they do their worst Chris Cornell impression. But that wasn’t the case at all with Crooked Heart.
Sure, they played some Black Sabbath worship riffs. But with yelled vocals and odd time signatures, these guys showed a wide range in musicianship and performance and I was never bored. It’s no wonder I often see their name on bills with hardcore bands; they’re just the right amount of heavy to fit in anywhere. They didn’t take themselves too seriously though. With great banter between songs, it was revealed that it was Elijah’s “21st” birthday (he was actually turning 30) and he was finally “old enough to drive.”
After a solid start to the night, I was told by my friend Chewie – the night’s security guard – that the next band, Teething, was also local. Again, I’d never heard them but I was aware of who they are as friends of mine are really into them. They’d also played a festival I’d gone to earlier this year but I missed their set. On this night though, I was immediately intrigued before they even started playing.
They set up two separate drum kits and played with two separate drummers at the same! I’d never seen anything like it before and was worried it might feel gimmicky, but it didn’t. Being an instrumental only band, the two kits added a very human element to their performance with them having to be perfectly in sync with each other. To add to their bleak, atmospheric, and droning sound the bassist occasionally twisted some knobs on an ambient noise machine and they had chilling clips from horror movies projected over them against the back wall. The most fitting one was the self-surgery scene from Alien. Also it turns out one of MattO’s co-workers is in this band; Grand Rapids is so small sometimes. Anyway, Teething rocked and I don’t think they muttered a single word onstage.
Finally it was time for the almighty Torche, or so I thought. Even after setting up all their gear, it took another twenty minutes for them to start their set. And I hate to say it but for a second, I questioned if the band was upset about the decent but modest crowd size compared to sold out ones I’ve seen them play in front of before. It was a Monday, like I said, and Hannibal Burress was performing down the street so there was some competition. But everyone in that room was Torche die-hards. After what seemed like a delayed start, it was obvious Torche was die-hards for Grand Rapids in return. Immediately, the whole band looked to be having the time of their lives. They were all smiles, made references to countless past shows at The Pyramid Scheme, and Steve danced and made silly poses for frontrow phone photographers.
To those that are curious about Torche, I always describe their sound as heavy enough for metalheads, dreamy enough for shoegazers, and punchy enough for the punks. The crowd exemplified that perfectly with tons of head bobbing, fist raising, and even some light moshing during the hits. Throughout their almost exactly one hour set, the band played just about the entirety of their brand new record, Admission which is currently available via Relapse Records, as well as fan favorites like “Barrier Hammer” and “Kicking.” If I’m not mistaken they didn’t play anything beyond their most recent three albums, which is fine by me because those three are perfect. Their black and white striped wave backdrop was super cool. They were kind enough to play an encore to the pleaing crowd and even dedicated it to Elijah from Crooked Heart’s birthday. Steve jumped into the crowd. My fears that they were annoyed with us before they played were quelled. They like us, they really like us!
All in all, this was the best Torche show I’ve been to and it left me heavily anticipating the next one. I’m sure I could’ve met the band afterward but again, it was a Monday and I needed to get to bed to rest my already aching head. My favorite moment other than seeing each of the three amazing acts was when my friend and bandmate, Matt got to the venue and yelled to me across the room “TYLER! WE’RE METZ FRIENDS!” as he pointed out our matching shirts. Sometimes all it takes is going to a good gig to clear the fog and that is very rad.