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March 10: Harvey Milk - "Bringing Old Back"

Posted by Chris / March 12, 2010

Even though the dreaded 30th birthday is rapidly approaching, it was refreshing to attend a show that didn't immediately make me feel like an ancient curmudgeon bastard. In fact, I actually sort of felt like young blood compared to the aging set of rockers who populated Il Motore on a mid-week work night. Then again, compared to headliners Harvey Milk, the majority of us looked like a gang of balding children.

Openers No Joy started shaky, but quickly picked it up by the third song into the set. Loud and sludgy, the local psych rock four-piece clearly suffered from what would turn into a night of unrelenting sound issues - especially noticeable with the barely audible vocals. Still, the quartet churned out a memorable set and I look forward to seeing them in the future. Bonus points go to the gal who rocked the sparkly purple J Mascis-issue Fender Jazzmaster.

Atlas Moth, a five-piece from Chicago, careened into a dangerously loud territory and never quite made an impression, despite caving in my eardrums. While their Isis-meets-thrash was far from annoying, they were simply too loud to enjoy. Their T-shirt selection, however, was amusing and colourful in an American Apparel-on-acid sort of way.

If you recall hardcore from the late '90s you might remember ninja kicks and boys doing arm windmills. Coalesce, who formed in 1994 and went on to break up several times, thrived in this scene despite sounding far too clever to be pegged as tough-guy hardcore. And on their most recent album, Ox released on Relapse Records, the four-piece sound wholly rejuvenated. While vocalist Sean Ingram was in top form, guitarist Jes Steineger stole the show with absolute god-like playing - I'd venture to say that he likely has one of the most unique styles of the genre. And, for better or worse, the floorpunchers either stayed at home or grew out of those silly antics years ago.

Headliners Harvey Milk, who played in front of a noticeably smaller crowd than Coalesce, competed for several minutes with the house music still blaring over the PA. Fortunately, the Athens, Georgia trio didn't let the persistent soundboard issues prevent them from slamming those who remained. Reinventing the blues as interpreted by sludge metal, lead singer Creston Spiers - who appropriately resembled Mickey Rourke a la The Wrestler - was wholly inspiring, especially considering that Harvey Milk's recorded output is actually getting better as the band gets older.

Unfortunately, while Coalesce and Harvey Milk were great to see the sound issues were far too distracting to dismiss. Mics mysteriously disappeared mid-set, drum sounds changed and entire songs got lost in a sonic quagmire. Hopefully Il Motore addresses these as soon as possible.

Tellingly, at the end of the night most of the crowd had thinned to the point where it didn't seem like the promised DJ set of '70s metal was going to happen. Lesson learned for Il Motore: Most of us old guys have bed times to adhere to.

Photo: Courtesy of Hydra Head Records

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