No, this has pretty much nothing to do with the martyred gay San Francisco city supervisor. The quintet Harvey Milk may have, in its name, nodded in tribute to that man, but that's where any political notions end for this band. Rather, this sludgy, experimental noise-rock act spews forth the kind of weirdness that could come only from Athens, Georgia. Formed in the early 1990s, the fivesome remained mostly a cult act there, the Southern-gothic vibe of its hometown seeping into the foggy textures of its many seven-inch singles. But there are only so many times a band can play the 40 Watt, and around 1998, Harvey Milk broke up for the first time. And — thanks, internet! — in the meantime, all those records became collectors' items.
Thus it was that in 2006, the band reunited, and eventually a comeback album of sorts was released last year, called Life... The Best Game in Town. And sure, therein are plenty of the requisite moody, anvil-heavy stoner rock riffs (bring on the easy Melvins comparisons!). But watching Harvey Milk live is an unpredictable experience. There are minutes of quieter, band-teacher noodling that make for a good time to space out — only to have a sudden, piercing shriek drag you back to Earth in a crunching thud of riffage. Yes, this band can be jarring, but the sonic peaks and valleys are never boring.
The headliners here are longtime Milk buddies Torche, who by now need little introduction locally. Since parting ways with founding guitarist Juan Montoya last year, as a three-piece, the band seems to be chugging along just fine. The trio recently completed a full-out national tour supporting Dredg, and this outing will take the band back up along the East Coast.