I've been looking forward to this show for quite awhile... it's kind of a sludge dream bill, no?
During the calendar year 2009 there's no band I've listened to more (as confirmed by my iTunes play counts) than the mighty Harvey Milk, and this would be the first time I've ever seen 'em live. And although I've already seen Torche thrice, this would be the first time I've seen them as a full-fledged headliner. Love love love these bands. Headed out towards Music Hall of Williamsburg where I made it past the Snoop-lookalike bouncer and inside the venue before 9. (Preshow music was Clash, I think.)
The first band, the four-piece Pollution, didn't take the stage until well after 9, plying the crowd with their brand of downtuned, angst-y metal. Influence-wise, these guys seemed to draw a lot from the usual '90s NYC hardcore/metal hybrid mainstays as well as the classic AmRep sound from the same basic time period. Enjoyable.
After an excessively long setbreak (over 35 minutes, more than long enough for the in-house soundguy to play the entirety of Death From Above 1979's You're a Woman, I'm a Machine album), Harvey Milk took the stage. Vocalist/guitarist Creston Spiers looked like Hell's Own Janitor dressed in a one-piece charcoal jumpsuit, with greasy locks framing a weatherbeaten face. A wholly appropriate appearance for the man whose legendary full-throated bellow makes it sound like he's passing a kidney stone the size (and shape) of a hedgehog.
Starting off with the lugubrious "I Got a Love" set the basic tone for the evening -- lumbering sludge in heaping doses -- with the tempo occasionally sped up with the inclusion of songs like 2008's single-tastic "Motown" and a trio of tracks from The Pleaser ("Shame," "Misery," "Lay My Head Down") and slowed down with impossibly syncopated material like "Love Swing." Indeed, this was some bass-heavy, brutal fare which exacerbated my preexisting migraine and at times seemed to be nearly shaking my filling loose. Kudos, gentlemen.
Up next: the evening's second power trio, Torche. As I mentioned this was the fourth time I've seen these guys, with each successive concert I've attended revealing a little something more. When I saw them opening for Mogwai in May '06, I thought, "man, they're heavy." When I saw them last July with Boris, I thought, "goddamn these guys sure have fun onstage." When I saw them opening for Dredg in April, I thought "Dredg is horrible. Torche should be headlining this." And at this show I kind of realized that these guys are absolutely one of the finest live bands currently going. Of course, for me the highlight of the set was "Across the Shields" (my third-favorite song of last year), during which vocalist/guitarist Steve Brooks hopped across the stage, performing high kicks, mugging shamelessly and generally just havin' a good ol' time. I don't know how to play guitar, but hot damn I bet that'd be a fun song to play... or maybe it's just that these guys play with such vigor, animation and pure joy, they make it seem that way.
Post-show I was disappointed to learn that the Harvey Milk merch table had sold out of Anthem DVD sets, so for a cool $5 I snagged a poster from a Denton, TX show earlier in the year instead (see below). The poster has an image of an anvil on it, which could reference any number of things: 1.) the Harvey Milk song "The Anvil Will Fall," one of the finest songs ever written by anybody; 2.) the Harvey Milk song "All The Live Long Day" on which an anvil is actually used as percussion, or 3.) Anvils are fucking heavy. Harvey Milk, too, is fucking heavy. Although I'm kind of regretting not buying the set of 4 Harvey Milk plastic tumblers (bottom), which they were also selling. Haha.