Warming up for Red Fang is definitely an unenviably challenging prospect. It’s a task that would leave many lesser bands forgotten the moment the headliner took to the stage, but Relapse labelmates Torche (7)perform a short, sweet set that marks them as distinctively memorable in their own way. For a start, the band’s performance is musically stellar. It’s evident that each performer on the stage is an excellent musician in his own right; Guitarists Steve Brooks and Andrew Elstner are consistently in perfect sync with one other, allowing Torche to deliver song after song of tight, well-crafted prog. The band’s sound falls somewhere between the straight up stoner rock of tonight’s headliner, and the atmospheric post-rock of bands such as Isis, Pelican and Russian Circles, an influence especially evident in the effect-drenched vocal sections of Torche’s music. However, despite the more ambient, experimental nature of some elements of the band’s sound, on-stage energy is nothing short of stunning, especially from bassist Jonathan Nunez, whose stage presence consistently holds the attention of the crowd.
Despite this impressive performance, it’s clear from the moment Red Fang (8) take to the stage that the crowd tonight are here for the headliner, and the energy in the room reaches a fever pitch as the band kick off with a rendition of Wires from their 2011 offering Murder the Mountains. Red Fang are a modern band, but their music and attitude is unashamedly old school, and tonight’s show is the perfect example. There are no fancy stage tricks, no large, expensive set design – just four guys, an album cover on a backdrop and a couple of cranked amplifiers. This performance is all about the music above all else, and the band keep things short and sweet between songs, with bassist Aaron Beam admitting they all find talking to the crowd between songs something of a challenge.
Admittedly, Red Fang’s energy and enthusiasm on stage isn’t quite as visceral as that of Torche, but they keep the crowd riled up at a fever pitch for the entire duration of their set, which mostly consists of a well curated mix of the highlights of their last two albums. However, the primary source of music is new album Only Ghosts, which will release on 14th October. This seems like a bold choice, and one might assume that too many unfamiliar songs would kill the crowd’s enthusiasm, but on the contrary, there’s a palpable sense of excitement in Koko tonight for the upcoming release, and new single Flies is received with an eagerness that suggests it’ll be a staple of the band’s live shows for many years to come. Red Fang close the night with a rendition of their breakthrough single, 2009’s Prehistoric Dog – its about as subtle as a brick wall, but what better way to finish a good, old-fashioned, no frills rock’n’roll gig.