Reviewed: Torche at the Borg Ward
As I pogoed with abandon to Torche’s “Across the Shields” Monday night during their steamy, wall-dripping set at the Borg Ward—my glasses fogging with humidity and the moisture from my hair whipping around my head—my thoughts (other than “HOLY FUCKING SHIT AWESOME AAAAAA”) went back to Jeb’s review of the July 16 Lightning Bolt show at The Spot (which I missed), and I thought, “man, it must have been a lot like this.” According to my friend Willy, “nope, this was hotter.”
As soon as the band opened with “Sandstorm” off 2008’s badass Meanderthal, the sweatbox was in effect. Bassist Jonathan Nuñez spent the majority of the set in the front row of kids, headbanging along with the audience while guitarist/vocalist Steve Brooks occasionally joined him, his trademark wide-toothed grin slapped across his face like he swallowed the Cheshire Cat. This is one band that is obviously having a blast onstage—hard to imagine why they wouldn’t be, since their music is about the bounciest permutation of so-called “stoner metal” available. “Stoner pop” is maybe the most direct term for what they do. And that’s a beautiful thing—heavy music with pop hooks? More please.
The set alternated between tracks from Meanderthal and, er, stuff I didn’t recognize (because that’s the only album I own by them, because I’m a fool and haven’t pulled the fanatic completist routine with them yet). Judging by the reactions the other songs got, I’d wager that most of it was new stuff—particularly the one Brooks introduced as “really fucking new.” I know, I’m a regular DeRogatis over here. Regardless, the crowd lost its shit for recognizable gems like “Grenades,” “Without a Sound,” and the aforementioned “Across the Shields,” during which Brooks bounced back and forth as if he were back in the song’s video (one of the best of the last 10 years, easy).
Another, perhaps even stranger take on the material Torche mines was executed by openers Beings, who feature drummer Betty Monteavaro (the original drummer of Brooks’ pre-Torche band Floor). After a clunky pair of opening songs that sounded like blasé yelling over some hardcore riffs, the band suddenly grooved into a downright bizarre pastiche of influences. While they buzzed and churned through a set nearly as heavy as the headliners’, 50s do-wop, 60s garage, and even 80s new wave poked their heads up from among the sludge and betrayed some serious songwriting chops. Beings were quite the pleasant surprise.
As if the entire night wasn’t a complete surprise when it started getting promoted in earnest last week. Torche at the Borg Ward? What the fuck? What’s going on here? The floor’s going to collapse! We’re all going to die—or at least drown in the humidity when god knows how many Monday night warriors cram into the ol’ funeral parlor-turned-gallery. Fortunately, the attendance was pretty close to perfect—packed, but not to the point of danger, or even discomfort. Plenty of room to pogo and not bump into anyone…much. But hey, if you were at this show and you didn’t move or shake it a bit, I’m not sure there’s much help for you and you probably deserved to have your personal space jostled a bit.
This was one of those shows where you realize how goddamn lucky we are that a place like the Borg Ward continues to exist in Milwaukee. As much as I love our bars, it wouldn’t have been the same without Nuñez out in a crowd of kids with the rest of the band mere inches from our faces. Holy fucking shit awesome aaaaaa.