20 October 2009
LC Pavilion, Columbus, Ohio
Converge are not a pavilion band. Converge are not a music hall band. Converge are a band that functions best in small, sweaty, dingy clubs surrounded by people who are there to clamour to get as close to the stage as possible in an attempt to share one or two seconds of microphone time. They function best surrounded by people who “get them”. The band is currently on the road with High on Fire, Mastodon, and Dethklok as part of the Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim Metalocalypse 2009 Tour (say that three times fast.). Though both Mastodon and Converge have toured together many times in the past, this was an interesting choice of tour for them to be placed on. They are particularly infamous for their technically flawless performances no matter where they are, and this was absolutely no exception.
From the outset, it was obvious that things were going to have to function a little differently than the way Converge fans were used to. In an attempt to make use of as much stage space was possible, the stage was set in a giant triangle. Ben Koller and his drums situated in the very centre with Nate Newton and Kurt Ballou’s stacks hanging out on either side but significantly more forward than they were used to. The cover art from Axe to Fall was illuminated digitally directly above Koller. That’s it. No frills. Nothing fancy. Perhaps it was an attempt to keep their hardcore sensibilities about them.
This was a very special show for this tour. In principle, it was the Axe to Fall cd release show. In practice, though, it was a primer to the very best that Converge has to offer. Touching on almost all of their releases, they gave the uninitiated a little taste of their back catalogue. They showed a mastery of the dramatic as, before they were even all on stage, guitarist Kurt Ballou walked out, quietly picked up his guitar, and started into two minutes of just guitar, effects, and feedback before slowly illuminating the digital backdrop and being joined onstage by the rest of his bandmates. That would be the last two minutes of relative calm that he crowd would experience before the band stepped off stage. Tearing through Fault and Fracture, The Saddest Day, No Heroes, When Eagles Become Vultures, and Axe to Fall, among others, they adopted a take no prisoners attitude. It was an attempt to make the venue seem as small as possible. Ballou and Newton ran, spun, leapt, and flailed around the stage, while Bannon deftly wove himself through the chaos in a very intricate game of cat and mouse.
Most people in the venue were particularly perplexed by the performance. The line between fan and sheer observer was rather obvious. Those present for Converge rushed the stage as best they could, inadvertently knocking into the surprising overabundance of the under 18 crowd and parents present. They supported the band as best they could with the space they had, and when the band was finished, they went to purchase their merch and then they went home. That seemed to be the trend for those that I have spoken with who have already been to this tour: show up for Converge, rock out to Converge, and then go home. That is absolutely a testament to the band’s rabid following. They show up en masse to support their “boys” and then they leave.
Considering the crowd and the nature of the venue and the rest of the factors that influenced the night (being booed and flipped off by the Hot Topic crowd notwithstanding), the band was as flawless and en pointe as usual. Even if you decide to stay for the other bands, (with the exception of High on Fire) make sure that you’re inside the venue to experience Converge. If you don’t care for the other bands, show up for Converge and then leave. You won’t be disappointed.