Converge (courtesy of myspace.com/converge)
Backed up with their words and actions at their Dec. 11 show the tried-and-true, critical idea that overcoming difficulty consists in union, not division.
Jacob Bannon, Converge’s lead singer, commented on the Salt Lake hardcore scene at least three times, each time reiterating how cool and unique and e “special” a phenomenon the scene in Salt Lake is, how its unity and passion are genuine and inspiring to him, eliciting deafening cries of approval from the audience. There has probably not been that much respect paid to our punk/metal/hardcore/straight-edge underground from a national artist like that, like, ever. The Rise Against show a couple months ago when approximately 13 kids got on stage and sang along with Tim McIlrath, who also commented on how cool and connecting it was to play a show where kids could get up on the stage and sing—(“This is what punk is all about,” he said)—was the only thing that has come close.
“This next song is about facing up to your personal demons and overcoming each and every last one of them,” said Jacob before launching into yet another metal hurricane of woeful doom. Jacob is like a lion on stage, prowling, bending and shouting at the sweating crowd, pointing his finger and shoving the mic into the faces of those lucky enough to sing along, amplified. Jacob carries himself like a prizefighter whose nose has been ripped apart, his cheekbones split open and his stomach neatly busted open from knocks in a narrow defeat before calmly leaving the stage, his defeated opponent behind him, his prize money in hand.
If you haven’t heard atmospheric metalcore/punk hybrid Converge before, I’m going to steal a few lines from my review of You Fail Me to illustrate: “More core than metal, Converge sucks its inspiration’s sap from early 80s lo-fi primitive hardcore’s dirty yet healing aloe leaves, glossing over nothing, getting their point across in terse, short, repetitive bursts of skull-splintering guitar riffs that are like so many pounds of TNT laced with deadly nail studs. Converge’s stirring lyrics reflect love lost instead of 80s politicizing.”
However impressive their latest album was to me, their live delivery was stunning. It’s not hard to see how Boston band Converge, in their 13 years together of relentless touring and recording, have managed to build up the rabid, respectful fanbase they have. The reason Converge stand out from a pack of mediocre metalcore offerings is because of their willingness to bridge gaps between old punk like Integrity, atmospheric melodicism like Isis and disjointed modern art-metal like Norma Jean. They also have genuine conviction about their music, which music-lovers can sniff out like cockroaches can a hunk of sugar cookie from 100 feet away.
Opening act Clifton was in fine form; they get better, more solid and more infectious every time I hear them. Their drummer is fantastic. I complimented him once at a show and he blushed. I swear it. Aftermath of a Trainwreck was OK, but Clifton blew them out of the water. Unfortunately, I missed Gaza. I’ll have to catch them some other time.
One thing that really bothered me at the Converge show was the total lack of respect for audience members by some crowd-surfers. Some of them were total assholes, literally running from a stool at the bar onto the heads of the crowd for 10 feet or so before collapsing against the stage, flailing their legs around, not caring whose face they crushed in with their steel-toed boots. It was actually pretty sickening and violent. I’ve seen a lot of crazy shit at shows, but this topped most of it. Not to be Romper Room about it, but there is a right and wrong way to crowd surf, stage dive and mosh. No, it doesn’t have to do with form and style. The cardinal rule and the only rule worth mentioning is to respect audience members who don’t want to participate in the violence. If someone isn’t participating in the pit, you don’t shove against them. If you didn’t ask someone if you could plant your fat, hairy leg in the middle of their face on your way to the stage on the heads of the crowd, then don’t do it. If you want to stage dive, don’t dive into the crowd feet-first, with your boots flailing at people’s skulls. It’s not funny and no one’s laughing with you and no one thinks you’ve got balls and it shows. In fact, everyone in that room thinks you’re an asshole ruining an awesome show that everyone came to see. Kicking someone in the head with a steel-toed boot can cause brain damage and even death. It’s nothing to mess around with. Luckily, some bouncers got up on chairs, blocking hopeful violent crowd surfers from continuing their reindeer games.
All in all, Converge was a great show. My favorite moment was when they lapsed into a dark melodic wash of layered guitar for about six minutes… it was slow and moody and winding and scraping your soul wide open; only about four to five chords were involved, over and over and over, which made me feel good because it made me realize even I could play something amazing on guitar. If I had You Fail Me on me, I’d try to find what track it was, but I’m in Ohio, so sorry, suckers.
Don’t miss Converge when they come through town again.