London, 16th September
On leaving the scene of Miami based stoner metal stalwarts Torche’s latest sponsored demolition of another poor, unfortunate venue, I was surprised to note that I hadn’t grown a five o’clock shadow at any point since I’d entered the venue through a process of osmosis. Y’see, XOYO is a sweatbox in deepest, darkest Shoreditch, and usually you can find it populated by the most achingly hip, annoyingly attractive people you can think of, feigning slightly amused disinterest at the most up-to-the-minute, Cheekbone Magazine endorsed bunch of chancers while secretly wetting themselves at how many of their friends they can brag about the gig to. Tonight is, in many ways, the direct opposite of that. 60% of everyone here is roughly the size of two of XOYO’s usual clientele and their facial hair would laugh in the, er, face of any hipsters immaculately coiffured handlebar moustache. It does go deeper than that though, as there is also an atmosphere of inclusiveness that you just wouldn’t get with any other genre of music, no-one seems to be judging you for showing up, and everyone recognises the fact that everyone present is hear due to an equal love of the all-consuming power of the riff. And oh, my sweet holy Jesus, they get riffs. They get so. Many. Fucking. Riffs.
As four Floridians approaching middle age, Torche, it must be said, aren’t much to look at. In fact they could be anyone in tonight’s audience save for Stephen Brooks’ majestic Hawaiian shirt. As a result, Torche don’t really try to make tonight any kind of visual feast. There’s the venue lights and there’s a solitary laser going slightly haywire through the closing numbers and the first half of the set, taken mainly from recent album Harmonicraft and therefore considerably more melodic than the second, is a lot brighter than what follows but tonight gives new meaning to the previously cliché phrase “all about the music”. Torche are utterly sensational at what they do, playing very loud, very heavy music to the best of their ability, with very little between song chit-chat simply because they rarely leave any space between songs. For many the lack of interaction between band and audience would feel alienating, I’ve been known to accuse bands of that from time to time but the sheer enthusiasm they show while they’re up their makes up for it, this is a band that aren’t just sensationally good at what they do, they also love it with every fibre of their being.
Of course, the music they play is an acquired taste, as every self-respecting alternative rock band’s music should be, let alone an underground stoner metal band. But only the most noise-phobic killjoy could deny the talent and energy that goes into a Torche gig. While they might take heavy issue with the mind-bendingly heavy second half of the gig, which features a guitar with a purposefully knackered low E string which sounds like a bomb going off and may test the patience of anyone not massively into their stoner/sludge metal, it would take a blinkered, stupid individual to condemn it because they didn’t like it. So in all one hell of a gig from one hell of a band, a rare beast in every sense of the phrase that we’ll have to wait a long, long time to see equalled.