[RECAP] Torres at Johnny Brenda’s 1/20/2016

"If you never know the darkness, then you're the one who fears the most."

Johnny Brenda’s is one of my favorite watering holes, but I have to admit that I’m rarely hip enough to recognize any of the names on their bill. I was lucky to catch Torres open for Garbage in DC back in October, and was blown away by their performance, immediately downloading the album Sprinter as soon as I got home and the self-titled Torres soon after. Needless to say, when I heard that the heralded singer/songwriter would be playing my backyard, I knew I couldn’t miss it.

Boston’s Palehound opened the show. The band is led by Ellen Kempner, who donned a Knicks beanie and exclaimed that she was surprised how well the show was going in spite of her being hopped up on Dayquil due to a cold. The audience bobbed and shuffled throughout the band’s 45 minute set that increased in intensity as it went along.  Kempner’s lyrics were often unpredictable and thought provoking including:  “You made beauty a monster to me, so I’m kissing all the ugly things I see.”


By the time Torres hit the stage the beloved Fishtown venue was impressively full, especially considering it was a chilly Wednesday night. The band entered the stage in matching coveralls, combat boots and what looked to be blue lipstick and started right into melodic “Mother Earth, Father God.“


Torres’ music is moody and atmospheric which could be difficult to capture live but this band does it perfectly. No one may be moved more than front woman Mackenzie Scott. I was mesmerized watching her facial expressions and body language as she maneuvered through each song. It seemed as though performing each song brought her back to the place she was emotionally when writing each piece.  But it wasn’t all business; Scott flashed a meek smile as she made eye contact with the audience and blushed when she got big applauses. She was very soft spoken and almost seemed shy as she repeatedly thanked the crowd for being “gracious hosts.”  The band wrapped up their set with “The Harshest Light” but first Mackenzie introduced the band and herself explaining “I’m Mackenzie, but tonight I come to you to as Torres.”


Set list

Mother Earth, Father God

New Skin

Cowboy Guilt


Proper Polish Welcome

Son, You Are No Island

Strange Hellos


The Harshest Light

Megan Hawkey is the co-founder of Riot-Nerd. She is a 34-year-old concert photographer. She lives in Fishtown with her supportive husband and their 2 rescued Pitbull mixes.
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