Photo of Touché Amoré taken by Brian Benavente
Earlier this month, Touché Amoré and pals Single Mothers and Gouge Away brought their high energy live show through Portland and gave the gathered crowd a truly cathartic experience.
Opening the show was local band Dead Tropics who play a harsh post-hardcore style of music. The band features members of Broadway Calls, a seminal Portland band. Unfortunately due to some heavy Portland traffic I missed half of their set, but what I saw was engaging and fun. Their sound reminded me of bands like Thursday and Thrice, but with some heavier elements mixed in. The crowd loved what Dead Tropics had to offer, starting pits and jumping around right out of the gate.
After Dead Tropics got us warmed up, Gouge Away took to the stage. The hardcore band from Florida opened their set with “Sweat,” a song they released on a 7″ earlier this year, and then continued to roll through a nice mix of new and old songs. I saw Gouge Away for the first time back in May after being a fan of their unique, aggressive sound for a while, and they are such a pleasure to witness. Vocalist Christina Michelle gives everything she has to her glass-shattering vocals and always looks incredibly humbled and happy to see the crowd singing back at her. On older songs like “Uproar” and “Bleed/Calloused” the crowd got especially rowdy, two-stepping and starting circle pits, but Michelle smiled wide as we sang the lyrics with her, and afterwards thanked the crowd for being respectful of one another. Besides playing songs from 2016’s ,Dies and this year’s Swallow/Sweat, the band also played two new songs which show their progression into a different sound. Less traditionally hardcore sounding, but still heavy and enjoyable; the band are obviously not losing their edge, only sharpening it. Before long, their eight song set was over, and they left the stage to cheers and a few calls for, “One more song!” If you get the chance to see Gouge Away live, make sure not to miss it, because they are a powerhouse.
Next up were Toronto punks Single Mothers, who I had very little prior knowledge of, but was immediately impressed by. Vocalist Andrew Thomson is one of the most enigmatic front men I’ve ever seen; from the first note the band played he was bouncing around the stage and conducting the crowd as if they were his orchestra. He acted out the lyrics of the songs, swung his hips to the drum beats and generally put on a wild, enthusiastic show. The crowd ate it up and responded with equal fervency and enthusiasm. During some of the older songs (“Half-Lit” especially) the crowd turned themselves into an anthill, all climbing and piling on each other to get to Thomson’s microphone. It was awesome to watch a band have so much command over a crowd, and to see fans get so excited about the music being played is refreshing.
Single Mothers have been touring for quite a few years and their experience shows, but it also has its drawbacks. Specifically, the band talked during one tuning break about having to miss life and family events while on the road, like a wedding that their bassist Ross Miller was supposed to be at the night of this show, and so the band recorded a video of the crowd saying congratulations to the bride and groom. The band kept their wild and crazy show moving along, even bringing out Touché Amoré frontman Jeremy Bolm to sing on “Marbles,” but eventually reached the end of their set. Thomson introduced their final song “Money” with the line: “this song is called Money. It’s about money,” and just like that the circus packed up and left town.
Finally, it was time for headliners Touché Amoré to hit the stage. As soon as the opening notes of “Displacement” rang through the room, the crowd was alive. Bolm and crew have inspired a passionate following over the course of their career, and seeing those fans interact with the band they love made me, an outsider to the world of Touché, feel happy. The crowdsurfing and stage diving reached an all-time high as the band quickly ran through songs from all of their albums, each fan flying through the air screaming along with Touché’s emotional lyrics. I’ve never see Touché Amoré before, and I’m not that familiar with their recorded work either, but being in the room with all this passion and excitement made me want to be a part of it.
The band only played for an hour, but somehow managed to pack nearly 20 songs into that time, playing at breakneck speed yet never letting the emotional impact of their words slip by. Drummer Elliot Babin was especially fun to watch; his sweat drenched frame smashed away at his kit all night long, providing the foundation that the rest of the band worked from. His ability to keep playing while breaking stick after stick was impressive. Touché Amoré are an incredibly tight band; no note sounded out of place, the vocals were intense and passionate, and the way they ebb and flow from softer parts to earth-shattering heavy parts is incredible. Before the night was over, the band had Christina from Gouge Away out to guest on a song, and then finished their set with “Skyscraper.” When they came back for their encore, they took a suggestion from the crowd and played “Honest Sleep.” That made the fans goes especially wild, all trying to reach Bolm’s microphone at the same time to scream those lyrics along with him. The song ends in an acapella scream of relatable lyrics, and watching the band and the crowd become one for that moment was truly awe inspiring.