Turnout spotty for Amplify music fest

He held his guitar over his head, like a trophy, like he should have.

It was the end of a fuzz-drenched set of stoner rock thunder, and Torche frontman Steve Brooks had earned the right to a triumphant pose, glistening with perspiration like a sweaty diamond. Driven by a drummer who swung his arms so hard it was as if he had anvils for fists, Torche’s set was equally hooky and heavy, a victory lap for the power of the almighty riff.

The band brought the first full night of the Amplify music fest to a fittingly climactic close at the Beauty Bar last Wednesday, turning in perhaps the most compelling performance of the 100 plus bands who showcased themselves at eight different downtown venues over four days.

As is often the case for events like this, the turnout was spotty in places. Vanilla Ice inexplicably packed the Celebrity on Thursday night, backed by a DJ who used a power grinder to shoot sparks all over the place. Since Southern-styled rap is popular these days, of course that’s what the trend-hopping MC mined for material.

“What the (expletive) do you know about the Dirty South?” Ice asked in song at one point. Funny, we were wondering the exact same thing, guy.

Other, less fortunate acts played mostly to relatives and stagehands. Growling groove metallers Old Man’s Syndrome performed in front of a half-dozen people at the Celebrity on Wednesday, and as you left the venue, you could literally hear crickets chirping.

Just as spare was the draw for enveloping power poppers Dancing with Aspirin at the Beauty Bar on Thursday and the overlooked The Living Suns at the same venue the day earlier. Too bad more folks didn’t catch the Suns, who impressed with dense, organ-fired jams and a shaggy-haired drummer who could pass for Jesus’ stunt double.

But some acts managed to lure in sizable audiences, like Vegas’ own The Deadly Seven at the Beauty Bar on Thursday.

Fronted by seven topless chicks with electrical tape over their nipples, the gals locked lips and shouted out bawdy, oversexed punk, including Black Flag and Dead Kennedys covers.

Whatever the line is between camp and exploitation, this bunch twirls themselves around it like one giant stripper’s pole.

And then there were smaller pleasures, like Black Army’s ennui punk and Peach’s Veruca Salt update, though one of the fest’s best moments was decidedly more raucous: a combustible set by hip-hop crew Rhyme N Rhythm at the Canyon Club on Thursday.

Backed by a tight four-piece band, including a fierce congo player, R N R demonstrated why they’re one of Vegas’ fastest rising acts with catchy yet cutting rhymes buffered by a fluid groove.

The MCs traded words like prizefighters trade punches, though at the end of the night, it was the crowd that left a little staggered.

Contact reporter Jason Bracelin at jbracelin@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0476.

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