The first time I saw TORRES was on my 22nd birthday. I spent the evening at the 9:30 Club, with my sister, a chocolate cupcake, and some of my favorite musicians. The line-up was pretty much a birthday gift on its own, with TORRES (Mackenzie Scott) opening up for Frightened Rabbit. For Mackenzie's set, I found my way up to the front to watch what would end up being the first singles from her third studio album, Three Futures.
When I had originally seen her, I was thrown off a bit. It was probably the combination of my unfamiliarity with the newer songs and Scott as a performer. In the manner that Aldous Harding almost checks out during her performances, Scott occasionally does the same, allowing the music to carry her in and out of the physical realm.
Seeing her perform again, two weeks ago at Rock & Roll Hotel, Scott was transformed. She seemed much more comfortable in her role as a headliner, and was far more connected to the crowd in general. Not to say that she didn't have her moments of appearing to be in contact with another world, but she was more human this time around.
Her new album came out on September 29th, which coincided with her DC tour date. The day-of, I listened to the album as much as I could, but it wasn't enough to be able to really sing along. This is always a strange feeling for me- I like to sing along at shows, or at least mouth the words, when I know them. Even despite this, seeing Mackenzie Scott at R&R was an incredible experience.
The new album is a grand exploration of timbre and textures. None of the instruments on the record are acoustic, which is a fascinating concept, but seems difficult to pull off- yet TORRES does. True to her roots, Scott's subject matter covers everything from religion, identity, relationships with others, and relationships with oneself. As a southerner in New York, TORRES sticks out in more ways than one. She creates a sound that is unlike her contemporaries, with an unflinching biting tone.
One of my favorite things about Scott as a songwriter is her ability to capture latent mental processes that aren't always picked up on by others. She is hyper self-aware with a knack for hard hitting lyrics. There are a few lines from "Skim" that give a pretty good example of TORRES' genius. "No pride or projection swells like insecurity. If only I could use that to hold you. I'd tell ya, I would use that to hold you." There are truly no unlit corners of Scott's mind as she contemplates her desires and insecurities.
Openers The Dove & The Wolf blew me away. I had never heard their music prior to that night, but walked away a fan. I spoke to Paloma and Lou a bit after the show while buying myself a t-shirt. The band, hailing from Paris, France, began through an online friendship. They met through one of their moms and kept in touch for a while via the internet. (Thank god for moms and the world wide web!)
Prior to walking onto the stage in head-to-toe red, the band huddled in the doorway. I had a feeling they would be up my alley before they even began to play their first song. With a sound that is as sparse and tender as it is strong, The Dove & The Wolf, truly lives up to its name. Both vocalists and guitarists contribute their perspective voices, adding to a layered atmospheric soundscape with punchy percussion. They stay within their lower register for warm harmonies suspended over moments of silence.
The band thanked the audience for being so quiet - a dc norm - and asked them to remain quiet for the next song. The song, entitled "Seven Days," was the highlight of their set. It reflected on the tonal shift and changes in Paris following the deadly terrorist attacks of November 2015. Despite being rather specific to a certain place and time, the lyrics can be felt and applied to any tragedy experienced by the listener. The repetition of the lines "I cannot stop thinking about it. And I don't know what to feel" perfectly encapsulate the feeling of recursive thoughts following any emotionally impactful event.
I left the venue with merch from The Dove & the Wolf, as well as the TORRES show poster from by the door from R&R. With the help of the people working the door, I was able to keep it mostly in one piece. Now I have a splendidly risque image of TORRES hanging up in my bedroom.
TORRES is still on tour with The Dove & the Wolf with stops in Salt Lake City, Denver, St. Louis, Columbus, and Brooklyn. If you can't make it out to a show, all of their music can be streamed or bought online.