Review and photos by Mike Bax
Red Fang with support from Torche and Whores.
A cool club that holds just under 300 patrons.
A relatively easy drive.
Sign me up.
Red Fang, along with Torche and Whores are currently entering their last week of U.S. tour dates together – ending on December 17th with a hometown show for Red Fang in Portland. This tour didn’t route into Canada at all. A three-hour drive might seem a little ambitious – but for me, it was a small price to pay to see a killer triple bill.
El Club (posted capacity of 292 patrons) was sold out this evening – the fourty odd tickets that were available at the door as the doors opened selling out before Whores took the stage. If there was any way to take the footprint of El Club and magically transport it to the Toronto area, I’d fully support it. I haven’t walked into a concert venue and been so immediately impressed with the place in eons. Once through the door, El Club is broken into two rooms: an antechamber area with the bar along the north wall, two washrooms at the west end just past the doorway to their patio area, and an opening on the south wall that leads into the small capacity room. El Club boasts a staged area that takes up the entirety of west end of the venue – raised three feet above the venue floor, adorned with a modest but effective amount of lighting that illuminates the stage area nicely. LED ceiling pot lights work their way back over the audience to the rear of the room to a center area soundboard and a slightly raised standing area for remaining patrons. The Southern wall of the concert hall is painted grey with a lovely black and white mural at its center. El Club was close to full before the first band went on stage, with many patrons chanting “Whores” in unison at 8:15pm hoping to pull the band out early.
The Atlanta three piece act Whores (recently signed to eOne Music) strutted out on stage at 8:30pm. Featuring Christian Lembach on guitar and vocals, Casey Maxwell on bass and drummer Donnie Adkinson, Whores immediately cranked up the intensity in the room as Lembach leaped about the stage with his guitar, gnashing his teeth as Maxwell and Adkinson pounded out the backbone to Whores gnarly material. The magic of Whores live is watching them manage to be both menacing and euphoric, delivering a form of unbridled energy as they play that is utterly contagious. Your eyes move about the stage area as quickly as the band traverses it’s area, fixating on aggressive energy oozing off of Lembach and Maxwell, stopping occasionally to see the ear-to-ear grin on Donnie’s sweaty face as he bashes out the heavy drum beats that signature every Whores song. While servicing some of the new material on their just released Gold album (included in Rolling Stones Magazine’s Top 20 Metal albums of 2016 list), Whores also stayed true to their roots, dropping ‘I Am An Amateur At Everything’ off of their 2013 EP Clean ‘And Tell me Something Scientific’ from their 2011 EP Ruiner. I can’t say enough good things about what Whores bring to the stage every night. If there is one band to put on your list to see in 2017, it really should be Whores.
Torche, well into the touring cycle for last years Restarter LP (Relapse Records), took the stage at around 9:15 and performed a 45 minute set of their signature pummeling material. Torche deliver a level of heaviness at any live venue few other bands can manage. Anyone who has seen them perform can attest to what I’m talking about here. If there is music heavier than metal… Torche could very well be it – a band that continues to amaze music fans in the studio and live on stage. Steve Brooks on guitar and vocals, Rick Smith on drums, Eric Hernandez (from Wrong) on bass and vocals for this tour and Jonathan Nuñez on lead guitar. Lately, the finale for a Torche show has become a lengthy rendition of ‘Harmonslaught’, a track released as a limited run 45 single prior to Restarter’s release, and is included on the album only as a digital bonus track. While the entirety of Torche’s set was jaw-dropping to behold, ‘Harmonslaught’ in essence really captured everything great about Torche this evening in a single song: Relentless, deafening, beautiful noise, complete with synchronized time changes throughout the track’s entirety. Bonus points to Rick Smith, who leaned back on his stool behind the drum kit repeatedly and used his left leg to kick the cymbals above one of his bass drums throughout the song.
Patrons this evening already had their money’s worth before Red Fang (also Relapse Records) even walked on stage, not a common feat in this current musical climate. Minutes before Bryan Giles (guitarist and vocalist), Aaron Beam (bassist and vocalist), David Sullivan (guitarist) and John Sherman (drums) took the stage – the room filled to capacity – fans doing their damnedest to get in as close as they could to see the band. The four members of Red Fang walked out on stage smiling at the audience, taking in the waft of reefer emitting from the audience with a nod, shook hands, and quickly launched into ‘Blood Like Cream’. The crowd five people back from the front of the stage all lost their minds, churning a good chunk of the room into a frenzied mosh. Throughout the night we had crowd surfing, yelling, high fives and stage diving. A couple of times during their set Bryan Giles and Aaron Beam stood side by side at center stage wailing on their guitars held up in a hanging position in front of their bodies – the necks of their guitars so close to the swelling crowd fans could almost lick the strings. During one of these moments the audience coughed up a member onto the stage between the two guitarists. This fellow quickly uprighted himself and got pulled back into the audience by the back of his belt, Giles and Beam never missing a note as it happened.
Beam addressed the crowd a few times, commenting on how great the line-up for this tour was, and thanking the patrons who were under 21 for showing up and supporting their music (Beam inquired about the black X’s that he could see adorned on the right hands of a lot of the young fans jammed up close to the stage). As ‘The Smell of the Sound’ came to an end, drops of water could be seen dripping from the ceiling onto the front right cymbals on Sherman’s kit. He toweled the kit off a few times and commented that he was getting soaked. The club’s manager came to the stage and inspected the leaking water. Sherman shrugged and said something along the lines of “let’s get this done then.” Red Fang didn’t cut their set short. They played ‘Dirt Wizard’ and ‘Prehistoric Dog’ as water leaked out onto Sherman’s kit with increasing intensity the louder and faster Red Fang seemed to play.
The sound this evening was tight, and it was like this for each of the bands. For a room that holds such an intimate crowd, I’d go so far as to say the sound this evening was exceptional – no one instrument ever drowning out the other. This was easily the best representation of Red Fang’s material I have ever seen live. Tonight was also the first time I’ve ever seen a headlining set from Red Fang. I have easily seen them at least a half dozen times before, always as an opener or on a touring festival like Mayhem, and never more than a 35-minute set. It was very cool to hear them do an hour of material and to focus as heavily as they did on Only Ghosts, an album I am particularly impressed with.
This show was truly one for the books.
Red Fang Setlist:
Blood Like Cream
Crows in Swine
Not For You
Hank Is Dead
Cut It Short
The Smell of the Sound