Photo gallery and review of Harvey Milk, Coalesce, The Atlas Moth at the Middle East in Cambridge, MA ( March 9, 2010).
"How about Coalesce? Fuck those guys. I don't think we want them to open for us anymore." So said Harvey Milk's Creston Spiers as he took the stage after the brutal all-out assault that Coalesce inflicted on themselves and anyone within striking distance. Like a coiled snake Coalesce lashed out and punctured the air with their formidable fangs, the atonal roar of the band pushing Sean Ingram's anguished shrieks and screams to the upper limits. Guitarist Jes Steineger didn't waste much time getting thoroughly acquainted with the audience, and during the third song without warning he launched straight over my head, into and onto the crowd with his guitar, still playing as he landed on the floor near crumpled PBR cans. He would not be a stranger to the audience portion of the room as the night went on, and the abuse he laid out to his guitar would eventually leave him with a bleeding hand. Coalesce isn't a band I can see myself listening to at home much, but live they were incredibly invigorating.
Harvey Milk is probably best known for stretching out tones like industrial-strength taffy, the pauses in between the notes just as or more important than the notes themselves. Like a lumbering brontosaurus trying to free itself from a tar pit, there is power, tension and inevitably a sinking feeling. Imagine the between breaths of a sperm whale as they leave the surface to dive to the bottomless depths of the ocean, ready to take on the giant squids in mortal combat; that's the size of pause I'm talking about. They started out playing three new songs from their to-be released record, and these were ponderous slabs of rock power that made the sewer pipes beneath the building shiver and tremble. The band takes some obvious crib notes from the Melvins, and like Buzzo et al they don't just wallow in one particular genre, but can play a variety of tones, tempos and styles. Still, crushing sound is a core component no matter what the tempo, like they are attempting pile on note after note onto your chest until your lungs can't expand anymore. Asphyxiation never felt so good.
The Atlas Moth had a bunch of guitars, a keyboard, a drummer with awesome hair and a singer with a mustache that Rollie Fingers would be proud to wax. They also came with some negative energy caused by their trailer hitch breaking off the van on the drive down to the venue that day, coupled with equipment issues plaguing them, which fouled their mood even more. Not a bad set, but likely more enjoyable under different circumstances.
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