This past Saturday Philly was engulfed in yet another Apocalyptic storm, of whose recent regularity can’t help but make one wonder if something is attempting to tell us something… Yet South Philly indie rock hot spot Boot & Saddle was nearly full for Torres’ most recent area appearance, which might just be the most impressive [albeit minimal] “production” the city has seen this year. With the simple goal of getting a good enough buzz to temporarily forget that I would likely wake up the next day with pneumonia, I was quickly sucked into the brilliant performative world of Torres, a world that the 24-year-old has nearly complete control over. And while her consideration for the live experience borders on glaring, she never resorted to anything resembling a cliché or in the realm of “cheesy.”
The Brooklyn-based songwriter of the indie folk persuasion literally left her audience in the dark of the venue for nearly 10 minutes before taking the stage, as we were serenaded with sounds reminiscent of a horror movie soundtrack pouring from the PA… which came off as cleverly cool as it was confusingly cute. Finally, the chanteuse and her band made their way through the audience and took the stage and cleansed our sopping wet spirits via burning sage, before going into “Son, You Are No Island,” off of her recently released sophomore LP, Sprinter. The morose and primal tribal folk tune set the morbid mood that would dominate the evening… It was clear that Torres takes her music very seriously, however, she also made a habit of “breaking character” every few songs to lovingly thank the audience for the support that she was so grateful for.
The majority of the hour-long set came off of Sprinter, an album that seems to deal in depression and angst in as eloquent a manner I’ve heard in quite some time, all while confronting the soul with the potency of a ten-ton truck. Highlights included “New Skin,” ringing of grunge-era balladry and “The Harshest Light,” which is reminiscent of Tanya Donelly, during the most shadowy and alt country periods of her solo career. The evening’s best moment came during “Strange Hellos.” Before the track Torres told the audience, “Last night before I played this song I asked the audience if they’d ever been assfucked in the heart and no one responded, so I’m going to ask that of you, but I have no expectations,” to which she received the biggest response of the night, before delving into one of the best breakup songs of recent years that I desperately want to re-edit onto the soundtrack of All Over Me. The crowd’s consensus on the best track of the night, however, was “Honey,” off of Torres’ debut, a track that boasts all of the songwriting chops of her recent album, but in a slightly more delicate manner.
Throughout the evening there was a strange sense that not only is Torres a really good musician, but that she’s also a very important musician. In an age of digital-only Eps and SoundCloud fandom, there’s a sense that what Torres is doing really matters and will for a long time, perhaps even after her existence. She seems to be about 7 parts Patti Smith and 3 parts Nico, but if said mythologically profound creature had grown up in Olympia in the late 1980s… And there’s even a sense that she could possibly be discussed in the company of those two in years to come…