October gets nick-named “Rocktober” for reason – ’tis the season for concerts. I attended at least two a week, making it hard to find time to write about all them as soon as I would have liked to. Here are quick rundowns of the latest happenings.

Fog, Torche & Jesu @ Blender Theater, Saturday, Oct. 20

Openers Fog fit into the soft vs. loud aesthetic dominated by bands like Isis, Explosions in the Sky and headliners Jesu – however, Fog was less interesting and interspersed with weird keyboard interludes that would have made Genesis proud. Even weirder were their lyrics, which contained proclamations like “who tells you to work? the devil. who gives you the day off? the devil. who gives you your pay? the devil. and who takes it away? the devil.” In a word: head-scratching. Torche were a force to be reckoned with – despite lackluster sound at the venue that made it hard to hear any vocals, they dominated from the moment they started playing. Of the bands playing fast and furious, new and original rock today, Torche is the only one you need know. Those who saw the band live first before they turned to the recordings are sure to be disappointed, for though the recordings are stellar – the band shines in performance. They might as well light the stage on fire and burn it up when they’re done, for rare is the hard rock band that can follow and top them. Find the albums, find a show, enjoy. Jesu (officially pronounced “yay-sue”) grew better and more interesting as they progressed, starting out with a restraint and softness levels below that shown on record. It took nearly 2-3 songs for them to reach the kind of heaviosity they are capable of. Perhaps this was why Jesu sounds deceptively similar to Explosions in the Sky in a live setting, despite the two bands’ nearly polar opposite timbres.

Torche: “Charge of the Brown Recluse” (download)

Also there:

Fog on MySpace
Torche on MySpace
Jesu on MySpace

Image courtesy Flickr user klaus_kinski

Morrissey @ Hammerstein Ballroom, Monday, Oct. 22

I know many a Morrissey fanatic, I’ve see the live DVDs – I knew I was in for a spectacle, and the Moz delivered beyond my wildest expectations. Though there were no fan takeovers of the stage, there were three outfit changes (not including shirtless performance), Smiths greats and solo greats, and elbow-rubbing with Chloe Sevigny (literally). From the back-drop and the film clips to the fan-glad-handing and rose accepting, it all said one thing: Morrissey is a performer – and he’s still got it. One minute his voice displayed infamous dexterity, and the next he accepted cough-drops from a fan (he canceled shows in NYC earlier this year due to sickness). It’s easy to see why this man is so beloved. Viva Morrissey!

Morrissey: “First of the Gang (live at Earl’s Court)” (download)

Also there:
Ear Farm

Image courtesy Flickr user corrissey

Damien Dempsey & Sinéad O’Connor @ Beacon Theater, Tuesday, Oct. 23

Any number of mediocre, earnest singer-songwriters can be tolerated in the very least, but Damien Dempsey made it difficult to do even that, with his promotion of any and all Irish stereotypes (“Guinness! Guinness! Guinness!”) and his painful conventionalism. Much of it was trite and little of it was compelling on a positive level. His rhyme-dictionary flexing lyrics bended ears for all the wrong reasons when he wined, “the ghosts of overdoses have replaced the ghosts of tuberculosis,” and a song titled “I’m Never Going to Let Your Negative Vibes and Comments Get Through to my Psyche” bended time when he tried to shove it into the chorus. For his sake one should hope that title rings true in case he ever reads his reviews. Unfortunately, Sinéad O’Connor was only somewhat worth enduring Dempsey, as she was audibly restrained in regards to her vocal capacity. It’s quite possible this is due to a shoddy sound set up at the Beacon that evening – half of the monitors went out mid-way through, though they did get them back on eventually – but it’s hard to say. She seemed a bit lost, but managed to charm her way through a long set and encore for an incredibly appreciative audience, rife with standing ovations, thunderous applause and declarations of love, including a woman who shouted, “I apologize for the world being cruel to you.” She closed with a new song, penned for the soundtrack of “The Water Horse,” out in December of this year.

Sinéad O’Connor: “Nothing Compares 2 U” (download)

Also there:

Image (of the Toronto concert) courtesy Flickr user World_Freak

Junius & Circle Takes the Square @ Don Pedro’s, Oct. 30

While Junius played, all I could think was “remember when Alternative Rock was good?” There was a time not too long ago when a lot of popular rock music was so damn good, and Junius embodies much of that without re-hashing it. At their most melodic moments they recall Long Island greats On the Might of Princes, with greater control but no less intensity during the hardest. Managing to be incredibly accessible without sacrificing interest and talent, Junius is a name to remember. Their self-titled, debut full length dropped in early October – if you miss rock music from the late ’80s and early ’90s, you’re sure to appreciate it. Circle Takes the Square defies conventional descriptions, requiring most to balk to the umbrella term “experimental,” which they most certainly are in an all-out, “I defy you to turn away from the wreckage of a head-on collision” kind of way. What kind of hardcore and punk bands use chanting and spoken word? What kind of hardcore and punk bands have interludes that border on pop in the middle of songs? Dueling female and male screaming vocals screech over technically impressive drum, bass and double guitar work, pausing for moments of “what is this and where did it come from?” that somehow manage to fit in the mêlée. Everyone in the crowd went nuts, everyone in the crowd knew the words to every song. They haven’t released anything since 2004, but they’re working on something, hopefully for next year – be ready.

Junius: “Hiding Knives” (download)
Circle Takes the Square: “In the Nervous Light of Sunday” (download)

Junius on MySpace
Circle Takes the Square on MySpace

Image (of the Savannah concert) courtesy Flickr user zachariahpiccolo