July 29, 2011
Triple Rock Social Club
That unholy rumble you might have heard emanating from the Triple Rock on Friday night was one of the best (and heaviest) triple-bills the West Bank is bound to see all year, as Big Business, Torche, and Helms Alee all laid waste to the small club (and the eardrums of the audience) with forceful, punishing sets. All three bands definitely brought their own unique style of rock in distinctly different fashions, but each group's sound complimented the others quite well and captivated everyone in the audience, who dutifully returned from each between set smoke-break hungry to catch more of the metal sludge on offer. [jump]
Big Business and Torche are on a co-headlining tour together, but the room was good and packed by the time openers Helms Alee got into their set, a testament not only to the late starting time of the show, but also to the huge talent of the Seattle trio, who proceeded to easily win over a bunch of new fans (this reviewer included) with their dynamic, thunderous set.
Featuring a relentless, all-female rhythm section made up of drummer Hozoji Matheson-Margulis and bassist Dana James, the group charged through their breakneck set with reckless abandon, with frontman Ben Verellen displaying a knack for fuzzed-out riffs and growling, urgent vocals. The fact that Verellen was the guitarist in the much loved but now-defunct noise rock outfit Harkonen might have explained the large early turnout, but to those who came in blind to what Helms Alee have to offer, I'm sure that everyone who gave them a serious listen came away converted.
Miami quartet Torche were up next, and while their sound had a more melodic, slightly poppier sound than the other two bands, that doesn't mean they were any less hard-hitting, churning through their breathless set with both precision and power. Drawing mainly from their recent quick-hitting EP, Songs for Singles, and the stone-cold classic Meanderthal, Torche delivered a taut, energetic performance that clearly satisfied their longtime fans that congregated closely around the stage.
Frontman Steve Brooks has a insistent vocal bellow that is quite reminiscent of Paige Hamilton of Helmet, and the band occasionally hit on a groove and rode it relentlessly, in a similar fashion to that illustrious New York band. But their urgent sound and style are ultimately all their own, as they tore through one incendiary three-minute track after another during their breakneck performance. They even gave a gracious nod to the legendary Guided By Voices by doing a spirited cover of "Exit Flagger" that was one of the many highlights (along with an absolutely on fire rendition of "Out Again") of their explosive set that seemed to be over far too soon.
After seeing Jared Warren and Coady Willis play with the Melvins the last few times they've rolled through Minneapolis, it was great to finally get to see them perform again in their boisterous "other" band, Big Business. With new guitarist Scott Martin from 400 Blows in tow (but sadly no Toshi Kasai), the Biz came on in fine spirits just at the stroke of midnight, and wasted little time amping up the crowd with a riotous rendition of "Focus Pocus" that got everyone's head nodding in time with the relentless beat.
Martin proved to be a fine addition to the band, providing crushing guitar riffs and soaring solos that meshed well with Warren's untamed low end and Willis' rapid-fire drums. Big Business are on tour in support of their just released 12-inch, Quadruple Single, which is put out by their own newly formed record label, Gold Medal. And, after a celebratory version of "Hands Up," we got our first taste from that stellar new EP, as the band stormed through a rousing version of "Always Never Know When To Quit."
Warren was in a great mood throughout the set, joking about the late start time by telling the crowd: "We should stay up all night long. We'll get some pizzas, tell some stories--it'll be like olden times." He also went on to justifiably sing the praises of both Helms Alee and Torche, saying: "We all got married to each other while we were in New York. It's like the Summer Of Love on this tour, and it's awesome." I fully believe that touring with two bands that bring it so fiercely every night has caused the Biz to ratchet up their own game, as they sounded as intense and tempestuous as I've ever heard them, delivering tense and turbulent versions of "Start Your Digging" and "Cats, Mice" that really set the place off.
The band didn't let any time go to waste during their lightning-fast, hour-long set, detuning on the fly while the end of one song devolved into discord, as they dropped effortlessly into the lower tones and the 4/4 time structure of "Ice-cold Water." They were a sludge-metal machine up there, and that injected the music with a fresh potency. The sludgy, Sabbath-like crunch of "The Drift" was even more edgy, while "Grounds For Divorce" churned with a feral ferocity that only added to the sting of the song.
But it was set closer "Guns" that really found the band getting completely lost in their sound, as Warren repeated the brazen chorus of "Guns are better than anything else" while the rest of the band deconstructed the song in wild fits of discord. Willis jumped on top of his kit to clamorously sing and play along, eventually crowd surfing while Warren jumped behind the kit to keep the disorderly groove going. After the rest of the band left feedback wailing in the speakers, Warren still was singing the call-to-arms of the chorus, which eventually dissolved into hilarious, slow-motion gibberish, like he just had work done at the dentist. Smartly, the band didn't come back out for an encore, because there was no way they could top that finish. It was an emphatic, amusing way to end one what truly was one of the hardest-hitting triple-bills we're bound to see in the Twin Cities all year.
Critic's Bias: I was there to see Big Biz, but left a massive fan of all three bands.
The Crowd: Covered in ink.
Overheard In The Crowd: It was so loud in the Triple Rock that I could barely hear myself think, much less hear what anyone else was saying.
Random Notebook Dump: I truly regret missing the first couple songs of Helms Alee's set. Next time they play here, I won't miss a note.
Big Business' Setlist:
Always Never Know When To Quit
Start Your Digging
Just As The Day Was Dawning
Grounds For Divorce
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