After declaring my 12-gig “Autumn Dance Card” closed, this one was squeezed in at late notice, thanks to Beef’s enthusiasm for Torres, the musical pseudonym for Mackenzie Scott, a young Nashville raised singer songwriter. A new name on me, but having checked out a couple of tracks on YouTube and finding them possessing a late 80’s 4AD Pixies/ Throwing Muses quiet-loud dynamic (no wonder Beef likes her!), I snapped up the last-but-one ticket for this sell-out show, and also ordered up current album “Sprinter” for a hothouse listen at my desk during the day of the gig! Larry Last-Minute, that’s me…!
Beef and Dean collected me at 7 for the trip down to Bristol, my majority destination for my Autumn Dance Card, pitching up at The Louisiana for 8 after a circuitous and confusing diversion. Chilled in the bar before the rope was removed, and we eventually wandered upstairs to the already-heaving venue for opener, solo songstress Katie Harkin. After a low-key start, she eventually got motoring with some forthright and upfront amped-up indie guitar licks and riffery, the punchy power and occasional reverb/ distortion juxtaposing her fey, Harriet Sunday vocals nicely. Her “apostle epistle” “National Anthem Of Nowhere” and the rambunctious, rocking closer “Nothing The Night Can’t Change” revealed a tunesmith of some note, and I mused what these numbers might sound like with a full band behind them. I bet they’d rock…!
I stayed in and inched my way closer to the front for Torres’ entrance at 9.30, the striking blonde vocalist leading her band onstage in matching black boiler suits to unsettling background feedback. This actually set the tone for the show perfectly, as the spooky, spiky riffery and heavily pounding, funereal death march of “New Mother Earth” kicked the set off, then the excellent “New Skin”, next up, creeping in like a relative lamb, but then descending into a pit of Manchester Orchestra-like heavy guitar noise, with Torres’ vocals detached and menacing, like a younger Patti Smith, before thanking the crowd as its’ conclusion, “for joining me in my hot box!”
This was a riveting, unsettling show of remarkable, dark, pseudo gothic music, delivered with clear-eyed conviction and intensity by a unique talent and voice. In a similar mood vein to the likes of Savages, although much less in thrall to that gloomy early 80’s sonic template, Torres’ songs are invariably unsettling and bleakly confessional, with dark, foreboding clouds never far from the horizon, giving them a claustrophobic, menacing feel, a sense of impending doom. Nonetheless, her compelling performance, the intense gaze and worried, staccato shakes of her head, had an often indifferent Bristol crowd hushed, reverent and enthralled. A cheer greeted the introduction to “Sprinter”, Torres replying with, “you don’t have to cheer, I was just telling you…!” but then delivering a deliciously wallowing version of this sleazy, morose little number, the initial hushed, almost operatic chorus then leading to a more powerful climax, affording Torres the opportunity for some scary, wild-eyed vocals. This was however topped with set highlight “Strange Hellos”, a barbed, vicious stomper with Torres unleashing a blood-curdling howl mid-song, prior to a lengthy squalling guitar outro of almost Bob Mould proportions. Crikey.
The Pixies-like slow-burn sway of “The Harshest Light” (introduced with, “we’ve got 2 songs left… one’s an encore but there’s no exit [from the stage] so let’s be real with each other”) preceded set closer “November Baby”, a quiet, hushed and eerie opening bursting into a thrilling noise crescendo, with Torres taking to the front rows of the floor for some slashing riffery, bringing a startlingly fine set to a close.