Torche & Harvey Milk at Exit/In 7/16/09

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As the Rock Block gets on up there in age, rebounding from big nights like Tuesday gets a little tougher. One of the few attendees outside Exit/In on Thursday night confessed, "My ass is still kicked from the Jesus Lizard show." Still, he mustered the energy to come out and see Torche and Harvey Milk, but the small crowd inside shared his lethargy. The room was devoid of enthusiasm, with the patrons seemingly exhausting their reserves just to get there. The loudest crowd member during Harvey Milk's set was Torche guitarist/vocalist Steve Brooks.

The Athens trio didn't help matters in exercising no urgency tuning between songs, offering little to no banter as an awkward silence hung over the building. At one point singer and guitarist Creston Spiers instructed the audience to turn to the left and introduce themselves to the person next to them "since obviously none of you have anything to say to one another." Admittedly, we've only ever been a casual fan of the Milk, and the cult band that helped cultify the Melvins delivered exactly what we expected--a really good Melvins set.

Torche's approach was different. Rather than simply beating the audience into submission, the Miami combo dared the crowd to have as much fun as they were. Bassist Jonathan Nuñez vaulted around the stage while drummer Rick Smith left his throne as often as possible. Brooks poked fun at the crowd, calling us too old (he's right) and taking the opportunity on a slow night to be as unserious as possible. False starts and tangled cords didn't matter--there was no need to feign professionalism on this night, which is always a breath of fresh air.

Approaching the show, we were curious just how the more melodious tracks on Meanderthal would translate without former second guitarist Juan Montoya, who left the band in late 2008 due to personal conflicts--ones that reportedly led to fisticuffs with Brooks during a sound check. Brooks transitioned into the lead parts smoothly, but the band sounded noticeably less heavy. Thus Torche's distinction amongst bands pegged as stoner metal--their songs don't live or die by the riff. Here's hoping an off night in Nashville doesn't slide them into the not playing here column.

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