Can the Japanese Noise-Grind Core group Melt Banana bring the metal intensity without a drummer?
San Fran natives Hot Nerds opened the show, but we walked in 3/4 through their set. They played a type of carnival punk with guitar/vocals, acoustic drums and a synthesizer with songs clocking in under 2 minutes. The vocals had an effect that he didn’t turn off during the entire performance, even when he was talking to the crowd. The drummer pounded away on the drums with a ferocious intensity found in metal/punk drummers. The singer was self deprecating about the songs but the group seemed to enjoy themselves. The crowd seemed to be into it.
Then Torche showed up. This is when the place started to fill out a lot more and I had to weasel my way up. The music is heavy, but dude sings. In the first song Steve was shredding a guitar solo with a leg up on the monitor, letting everyone know they weren’t going to sleep their way through the set. He’d stick his tongue out and held the guitar up while acknowledging the first few rows of the crowd. Their music is somewhat rowdy, but not enough that people would go nuts and throw each other around to any of their songs. At least not on a Tuesday apparently. Or everyone there was older. They played a good portion of tracks from their newest album, Restarter, but mixed in a good chunk from Harmonion. Most of their songs are in the mid to uptempo range but the tune Minions really stuck out to me, and hearing it live was awesome. I’m a fan of the more upbeat energetic songs and listening to this recorded seemed like the song would drag on, but seeing them perform it live gave me a new appreciation for it. A crowd favorite was Letting Go, but once they were Kicking in you could tell that was also one of the tunes that got the crowd hooked on the band. They played mostly straight through for their entire set, with just a few pauses to check the tuning, but even that was quick and they were appreciative that everyone was there to watch them, not see them tune, get a drink of water and dick around. Not sure if they played this song, but it’s one of my favorites.
Melt Banana was a band I haven’t been able to truly appreciate until seeing them live. I’ll listen to them on occasion but to see them live was a whole new experience. Being a weak ass old man I figured I’d see about 20 minutes and just leave, but once they started playing She had such an amazing energy that she brought to the stage it was hard to tear myself apart. As a drummer I’m of course saddened when a band uses a drum machine, although I can definitely understand the why behind it. Heck Aaron and I moved forward as a 2 piece because we were done with guitar players for a short while. That has passed. But the drum machine was great, and to have actually seen someone perform what they had tracked would’ve made it that much better. Aaron mentioned that he saw them with Dave Witte and I’m not sure if I would’ve been able to handle it if that happened.
The movement of the singer Yasuko Onuki was electrifying, and the coordination between her and Ichirou Agata and the fluidity between songs made them playing with a drum machine and samples that much more impression. Save for a few occasions they weren’t concerned with walking over to line up the computer to start a song, but instead would have synced arm swings and starts, as if they’ve played these songs thousands of times to perfect them.