METZ isn’t a particularly difficult band to understand. Amid a modern music landscape that’s rife with clunky sub-genre descriptors and acts haphazardly piling 10 pounds of influences into five-pound bags, the Canadian outfit more than gets by on the simple principle of playing incredibly loud and immensely good rock and roll songs that occasionally careen violently into the peripheries of punk and noise rock. The band’s self-titled 2012 record effectively served as METZ’s bold and unforgettable introduction to American audiences. In May, the Toronto trio came out swinging again with its second Sub Pop Records release, fittingly called II, that relentlessly pummeled even more listeners as part of the band’s ongoing climb to worldwide consciousness. On Monday night, METZ started the second leg of its international II tour (which will extend to 17 countries and run through November) with an hour of aural brutality in front of about 100 weeknight warriors at Cactus Club who will get to say “I saw METZ’s first Milwaukee show” once the band is inevitably packing ballrooms and theaters in the years to come.
Shockingly, the show almost didn’t even happen, as flight cancellations forced singer-guitarist Alex Edkins—who was marooned in Chicago—to eventually solicit a ride to Milwaukee to reconvene with his rhythm section. Similarly, visa issues forced fellow Torontonians Dilly Dally to drop off the bill altogether. Fortunately for Milwaukee, hometown hardcore favorites Midwives proved to be a great last-minute replacement opener with a blistering 20-something-minute set that featured a dozen cuts from all three of the band’s releases. Following a less-than memorable performance by New York post-punkers Big Ups, the stage lights went down and the volume went up as METZ—basking in the simple illumination of white light—issued the first of 12 sonic gut-punches, first album finale, “Negative Space.”
Following two more setlist elder-statesmen from the band’s back catalog (including the especially abrasive likes of “Get Off”), METZ pulled out the big guns with devastating II standout “Spit Your Out” that was played at true-to-album perfection, followed by a delightfully dirty live renditions of “The Swimmer” and “Wait In Line.” Between restorative post-song chugs of domestic beer and perennial “Thank you guys so fucking much” audience interaction, the threesome executed sweaty, impossibly brash tunes from both records that, with eyes closed, could’ve easily been attributed to that of a five- or six-piece. Minutes after finishing its addiction-based number called “Wasted” and, subsequently, an apparent “mystery beer” given to him by an audience member, Edkins and what was left of his voice were supplying the quivering lyrics to the cataclysmic II opener “Acetate” to the absolute delight of everyone crammed into the blackened bar’s back room.
From the harsh opening notes of “Negative Space” to the parting distorted drone of set-ender “Wet Blanket,” METZ showed its first Milwaukee audience they’re every bit as unrelenting and intense live as they are recorded. Like a runaway freight train transporting a brick shit house that’s in the process of exploding, METZ treated a modest Bay View crowd to a Monday full of musical mayhem. As the lights were cut at show’s end, one member said, “We can’t wait to come back.” Cool. The feeling is mutual.