Big Business / Torche / Helms Alee - live in Philadelphia (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

Big Business / Torche / Helms Alee

live in Philadelphia (2011)

live show

Welp, that was loud. Big Business, Torche and Helms Alee dropped a metric ton of sludge rock on Philadelphia's First Unitarian Church Tues., July 19. For all the muddled low end, though, each band brought a different aspect to the style, resulting in a show that never got tiresome and certainly kept the crowd up in arms (relatively speaking; outside of Big Business, people didn't really move around all that much).

Washington's Helms Alee opted to kick off the show by being the loudest band. It was loud when guitarist Ben Verellen (ex-These Arms are Snakes) plugged in. When drummer Hozoji Margullis started tearing through her kit in a tribal/metal fit, it got louder. But when bassist Dana James finally brought the low end, that's when my molecules starting rearranging. Helms Alee is a power trio for sure, and no one element could truly take precedence over the rest, but James' bass sure did kick my ass.

Helms Alee got a good reaction from the crowd; Torche got a great one, and it became clear which band the audience was most excited to see. But to be honest, it was a little awkward transitioning from Helms Alee's co-ed tech sludge to Torche's brand of metal, which somehow manages to be both more drone- and more power metal-oriented at the same time. It took my ears a second or two to adjust all the 4/4 going on, but it wasn't long before I was on board with "the hits" from 2008's Meanderthal and last year's most excellent Songs for Singles, just like everyone else.

Despite a slight reduction in crowd size following Torche's set, headliner Big Business still played the best overall. They were funny ("Let's harvest our body heat for energy!"), they were rocking, and on top of that, drummer Coady Willis sported a sweet headset mic/drumming gloves combo. Helms Alee and Torche didn't interact much with the crowd, but Big Business bassist/vocalist Jared Warren was all about sharing mic duties with the fans, occasionally dipping into the crowd to spread the rock around. The group played a solid set that drew from all three albums, as well as their new self-released effort, Quadruple Single.

While the sound in the Church basement was a bit muddled, that actually suited the musical style, allowing the dissonance the three bands favor to be cultivated even further. Clearly, everyone in attendance was satisfied, and the merch tables were flooded after the show ended. It was loud, but a good kind of loud.