DJ Tim Rueda wrote a lovely review of Adam Torres' concert on February 11. This is his first article for KXUA, and hopefully there will be more to come. -Ed.
When I walked into Stage 18, I was greeted by the white walls covered with hanging art and the powerful purple backdrop being used for the upcoming concert that I had shown up for. The display called back to this month’s first Thursday and the venue’s grand opening. The purple lights splashed across the walls and acoustic guitar strumming echoed. Adam Torres was in the middle of his sound check, and after a moment he resolved to lower the guitar’s mic. He decided that it sounded more even. I told the bouncer who I was and sat down in the back row with my notepad, biding my time for the show.
The room was characterized by the near clinical arrangement of a gallery, which was tempered by the casual element of its bar. Apparently I had shown up very, very early. I lamented this fact, but used the time to take notes. About an hour later the show started with Adam’s song, “High Lonesome”. Most of the set consisted of songs off his most recent full length album, Pearls to Swine. In many ways the album felt like a concept album to me. Musically there is a consistent American west feel to the songs. Much of the album hovers in the realm of being hauntingly soothing; a trait that is enhanced by Adam’s ghost-like vocal delivery throughout this album in particular. It’s not something he’s always done. Many songs by Adam Torres paint intimate and personal pictures lyrically, but the signature feature of Pearls to Swine is definitely the consistency of all its elements.
“High Lonesome” was a great opener for the set. I consider it to be at the intersection of all the elements listed above, a good representation of the set as a whole, and easy to follow in whichever direction Adam would want to go. As Torres sang about being laid to rest in a shallow grave the white walls gained an air of coldness and the purple lights complimented the music, like a comfortable bruise.
The second song of the set caused me to shout out an enthusiastic cheer. I had told Adam that my favorite song was “Outlands” before he stepped on stage. Its picking and thumping rhythm is unmistakable and I was really happy with the direction he decided to go for the evening. The hypnotic pacing of the song cemented the atmosphere he started with “High Lonesome”. Further exploring the lonely imagery of quietly moving in the dead of night and the intimacy of shedding no tears upon being discovered; it elicited a sense of vulnerability with other people that made it a sensible follow up song.
The third song of the night was actually the first of the album, “Juniper Arms”; a sweetly reflective song full of symbolism using trees and protective distance. Many songs on Pearls to Swine consist of acoustic guitar, violin, drums, and vocals. “Juniper Arms” is one of the songs that benefit the most from violin which was sadly absent during the live performance; however Torres was able to throw in what can best be described as xylophone tones, present toward the latter part of the song. He accomplished it with a stretched out stomp to trigger the effect. It playfully offset the statuesque stillness of Adam on his stool.
Torres wasted no time slipping into “Some Beast Will Find You by Name”. The song starts with the powerful opening lines, “I want to live before I die. Free the skies thunder inside my chest. Now and again I wonder why. Can I escape from under the weight of my regret”. The sequence of choices Adam Torres made for his set struck me for their interesting flow. I appreciated the way that each song so far had supported the one before and after. As a D.J., I consider it a skill and an art form in its own right to arrange songs well. I knew this was true of both the Pearls to Swine album itself, but I was impressed he could do it so well playing songs out of order.
Once “Beast” was over, Adam brought the audience a sense of life and Spring with a light spirited song from Pearls called “Rain Song”. Again the violin was sorely missed, but the song maintained a rejuvenating effect. I noticed others tapping and swaying along. The floor space of Stage 18 had filled up to the door and I took a moment to look around smiling at the people standing next to me. Apparently I’m easily influenced by cheery music.
From there Adam continued with the upbeat musical (not lyrical) vibe with the song “Hatchet” from the, I came to sing the song EP. With it his voice relaxed from the higher registers as he sang about his heart being cut. I think the song also serves as a good explanation for Torres’ generally somber music as he confesses “I go to places in my head that I can’t explain” in the song.
Adam Torres spoke up after the song with a soft voice consistent with his gentle demeanor. He spoke about his partly Hispanic heritage and disappointment for current times in which people are compelled to push others away by building actual and metaphorical walls between us. After saying “Keeping people apart with walls is one of the dumbest things I can think of”, he nudged the soapbox his foot rested on and chuckled as he said he would get off of it.
This led into the song “Dreamers in America” that Torres wrote as part of collaborative album project Our First Hundred Days. This was a song I hadn’t heard before, but it was easy to follow. Torres said that he wrote it as a form of peaceful protest. Rather than anger, it centered on hope and cooperation for people looking to take care of their families.
Adam returned to Pearls to Swine’s “City Limits” for his final song. It complimented everything up to that point. It’s a song that highlights themes of being pushed away, the coldness of contemporary life, and the desire for change that are most easily evident in the line “watch them tear the city limits down so we could live in this town”.
Thanks to the venue the show had the intimacy of a living room concert, but the energy of the room had so much focus, too, that I was personally left in awe. Adam Torres carries himself in such a gentle mild-mannered way, but the power of his voice is undeniable when he sings. He will be returning to Fayetteville on April 11th.