Pelican and Torche (Oran Mor, September 14th 2008)

Thanks to one of SPT’s rather annoying policies, my trip to the Oran Mor became significantly more interesting. My intention was to take the Subway at about 6.00 ish, assuming that it would shut down before I was able to return. I was right. In fact it shut down before I even got there. No subway after 6.00 on a Sunday. Every other day it stops after 11.00. So I cycled to the Oran Mor. Without having much of an idea how to get there, except knowing it was near the Hillhead subway station. What a fun experience that was At one point I found myself going up a street that was so steep each house was a full storey above the previous one… And given that I had enough trouble finding it in the daylight, imagine trying to retrace a route I didn’t know in the dark at after 10:00 when the show finished…

Okay, ignoring the 7 mile round-trip on the bicycle, let me talk now about the event. I sat recuperating in a comfortable sofa listening to Do Make Say Think, waiting for Torche to take the stage. Eventually they did. Their set drew mostly from their latest album Meanderthal, which is almost a redundant statement in any live review. I only have the latest one anyway, so this at least gave me a frame of reference.

Torche took off in a rip-roaring display of crazy-cool rock music, vaguely of the stoner variety emphasised by ultra-warm fuzz tones, for forty-five minutes (probably – I wasn’t timing or anything). This is especially impressive because their songs tend to be very concise.

Grinding melodic guitar riffage rode astride powerful and articulate drumming, and the obligatory searing hot solos to keep things moving along. Suffice to say, the set was highly energetic and highly enjoyable. Even when a pair of drunken buffoons started to dance by bumping into everyone before having a bottle confiscated and being reprimanded by security, I was still transfixed. Maybe I should have been dancing, but that’s just not my bag. Not in public at least…

They ended their set with the final track off Meanderthal, which is coolest song, both on the album and in the known universe. Upon hearing this track for the first time, after picking my jaw up off the floor, I began speculating on how this super-low guitar sound was produced. As it turns out, it involved switching to ridiculously down-tuned guitars, so much so that the lowest string was actually vibrating like a loose bass string. Whatever tuning it is, it sounds utterly awesome and crushing, much like on the record. However, this extended jam version rumbled on for twice the album length, and towards the end, the lead guitarist entered the audience and invited people to grab, hit and scratch his metal-necked Travis Bean guitar thereby producing an unholy racket. Then like a magic trick, he vanished, leaving the crowd passing the guitar around till he re-appeared on stage to turn off the amp and signal the end of the set. And yes, that one song deserves its own lengthy paragraph, nay, religion.

I shifted positions for Pelican, which I now regret. When they eventually emerged, I was reasonably excited, but the sound was absolutely awful. All I could hear was bass and drums, which is kind of a problem in a two-guitar band like Pelican. Either I had wandered into a bad listening location, or the engineers dropped the ball. Because of this, my enjoyment of Pelican was diminished. I almost left half-way through, but I didn’t really want to fight my way to the back of the tightly packed crowd just to get lost on my bike again.

Pelican can be slow, but on recordings, I find them highly interesting, what with the complex interplay between the guitarists, almost completely ignoring all pre-figured rules for twin-guitar metal. Unfortunately, their rhythm section is less interesting by far.

I hate to be one of those guys jumping on the “Larry Herweg is a shit drummer” bandwagon. Listening to their records, I find his work perfectly acceptable if not especially outstanding, but in this live performance, his timing faltered and wandered somewhat, occasionally to verging on what Robert Fripp calls a train wreck. Does that make him a bad drummer? Yeah, it probably does, but Pelican are aware of the criticism, and they don’t seem to care, friendship and loyalty evidently meaning more to them than pinpoint musical accuracy.

My point is, I could only really hear the rhythm section through most of the set, and coupled with the bands’ already plodding pace and lack of energy in comparison to openers Torche, this made for a very dull and slightly wobbly performance in my opinion. They came off stage after an hour which was about 45 minutes after I had zoned out. They ran out of time, so no encore for the ones who were digging it, proving once more that Sunday nights are shitty nights for gigs.

On reflection, maybe Torche’s live show just blows bands like Pelican out of the water.

7 thoughts on “Pelican and Torche (Oran Mor, September 14th 2008)

  1. Haha, my brother’s mate Sam was cursing SPT when he arrived (late)!

    Torche were great, a breath of fresh air for me anyway – finally a modern band who can be both crushingly heavy, yet melodic at the same time. The first part of the set was in drop A, poppy yet heavy, then the 2nd part was drop D where they played some of their more complex stuff. Then part 3: BOMB STRING! Truly orgasmic stuff.

    I was standing to the left of the mixing desk whilst both bands were playing, and as someone who has studied sound engineering I can tell you that the sound was indeed horrible for Pelican. I had a drummer friend next to me who is a Pelican who fan, who turned after thier 3rd song to shout somewhat depressed “the snare sounds like shit, way too much low end in it!”. Add to that a kick drum gated to Lars levels and a bass guitar mixed in the low mids and the end result was a 2 guitar band with no guitar in the mix!!! The Pelican guitar sound was tinny and weak, how can a band who played most of their stuff in drop B sound tinny?! And especially since they were using the same kit as Torche, who sounded huge. My brother met Juan from Torche later in the night outsite a pub on Sauchiehall street and duly told him they wiped the floor with Pelican.

    End result of Pelican’s sound, I left mid set. That is only the 2nd gig I have left early. – the first being when the Datsuns stunk up the QMU after a prefectly good Hellacopters set.

    Depressingly, other than the sound, Pelican bored the arse off me. To be an instrumental band you need at least a couple of extremely good musicians in the mix – there wasn’t enough happening in any department there to hold my interest.

  2. Thank you for that highly intelligent reply sir. Yeah, that was one of the more disappointing shows I’ve been to in recent memory. I’ve also found that the Oran Mor doesn’t generally have great sound – I’m yet to see a band there without coming out with complaints on that front.

  3. That was the first time I’ve been to see a rock/metal band in Oran Mor, Torche sounded good to me so really can’t understand how Pelican had such a bad mix. The only band I have seen live with a worse mix would be Black Label Society at the Academy a couple of years back – have seen them since there again and they were much better, but first time I saw them they were awful and the sound was worse!

  4. Well I saw Isis and Oxbow presents Love’s Holiday at the Oran Mor, and Oxbow sounded good, presumably because it was just acoustic, while Isis just turned to mush. And at Mono and Jesu, Mono sounded reasonable but Jesu, who are one of my favourite bands, sounded awful I thought. Plus JKB’s laptop crapped out several times.

    A few years back, half these bands now playing the Oran Mor were playing ABC2, which I much prefer.

  5. Ah, memories… High on Fire in Sleazys, now that was scary! I’m glad less heavy bands are using the Cathouse though, the sound in there is usually awful.

  6. Man, I would’ve loved to have been there to see Torche – I’m a big fan, and it felt like forever waiting for them to come and play Glasgow. Of course, fate being fate, I was in the US at the time so couldn’t get along. I’d definitely recommend picking up the first two CDs – Self Titled and In Return EP. Lots more of the heavier-doomier side of things, and lots more Bomb String :-D

    The funny thing that strikes me reading this review is how much it reminds me of when I saw High On Fire with Pelican back in December ’07. Although it definitely wasn’t the best High On Fire gig I’ve ever seen (Sleazy’s gig mentioned by Tossom would be it!), HOF totally blew pelican out of the water. Pelican were disappointing to the extent that a lot of people started leaving and just going to the pub instead. I would’ve been joining them was it not for my company being a couple of dedicated Pelican fans, who even themselves conceded that their performance was a bit second rate.

  7. Picked up In Return a couple of weeks ago, it has been on heavy rotation ever since I got it! The s/t album much the same then? If so may need to go amazon-ing again…

    I missed the HOF and Pelican show in December last year with a broken ankle, had been depressed about that until actually seeing Pelican live this year! I was at the show with a couple of major Pelican fans too, even they left feeling a bit miffed by the experience. Still, I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt as I think the sound ruined the Oran Mor gig for them.

    HOF have delivered pretty much every time I’ve seen them, an incredibly noise for a three piece most certainly. Either of you ever seen Dozer live? Judging by the band names being chucked about I’m guessing you’ll have heard of them!

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