I've been waiting over 5 years to see Converge live. Converge is one of my favorite bands and I've been a fan since I first pirated the song "Homewrecker" (for preview purposes, as I later purchased the album) from Jane Doe back in 2002/2003 (can't remember the exact year). The band has been churning out an interesting brand of metalcore for a long time now and throughout the last decade, they've maintained a stable line-up and released consistently excellent releases. Last year's Axe To Fall was an invigorating mix of trampling hardcore, crunchy metal, and searing rock and roll riffage. It's probably my favorite release after Jane. On the strength of Axe and the fact that I had missed Converge the last 2 or 3 times they came to Cleveland due to being away at school, my anticipation level was through the roof, and the experience lived up to my expectations.
However, the were thorns that needed to be weeded through before I got to the (black) rose. The first band of the night, Touché Amoré from Los Angeles, went on around 8:30. They played a quick set of bland hardcore, which was interesting for about 2 seconds. They did do a song about the importance of legalizing gay marriage and the frontman sported a stylish "I support same-sex marriage" shirt, so I can at least say that they spread a good message.
Next up was a local Cleveland band who's name I did not hear (I didn't hear Touché Amoré's either, I had to look them up). Apparently, they got on the bill pretty last minute. They weren't much different from TA, other than the stage banter. Their mouthpiece was asking for the score of the Cavs/Celtics game and the crowd obliged. I thought perhaps their songs were too long, in addition to just being kind of rull-of-the-mill.
I changed my location at the Grog Shop for the next band, Lewd Acts. I had previewed a few of their songs online and was only slightly amused. The live set, sans vocalist, wasn't much to behold. I liked that the band gave it their best shot and tried really hard to appeal to the crowd, even getting them on the stage during the last song, but the music really didn't do anything for me. There's only so much hardcore that is actually interesting musically and has the all-important authenticity...
Which brings me to Converge. Maybe it's just the fact that I (and the crowd) actually know their songs very well or that the C is a veteran touring band, but everything seemed to change when they took the stage. The whole room just became chaotic, matching the intensity and ferocity of the music. I certainly didn't stand in the back and quietly observe, I was near the front, being beaten and shoving everyone in my sight (I'm still sore). The set was a nice mix of all the last decade's releases, focusing mostly on the hardcore side of things, as I expected. Here's a partial setlist (what I remember of it), not in order, except the first two songs:
Axe To Fall
Reap What You Sow
Distance And Meaning
The Broken Vow
Jake Bannon had the good sense to say the name of each song, and sometimes album, before they played it. Converge mostly swept through without too many interruptions. There was a moment when Bannon gave props to the city and the only three bands from it that are actually good (Keelhaul, Integrity, Ringworm), which I appreciated.
Black Breath played last since their merch guy had a seizure, which prevented them from making it to the city on time. I only stuck around for a few of their songs since I wasn't really in it, but BB wins the award for second best band of the night, since they injected some much-needed musicality into their brand of rockin' hardcore.
Despite the boredom I experienced from the non-Converge bands, I still had a good time, as I was finally able to see a band that I love so much. I did walk away from the show with nasty, smelly beer in my hair, but it hardly detracted from my enjoyment.
A final note about the crowd: I did expect a mostly hardcore crowd, but was still a bit surprised by just how overwhelmingly hardcore-oriented the crowd was. I've always considered Converge to be a band that brings different types of fans together, but this night seemed to disprove my impression. And I also postulated that there would be more females, since I have some weird idea in my head that women like metallic hardcore music (especially among female metal fans), but I suppose that's also untrue. I didn't feel out of place in the pit, though. It was almost as if the pit erased all sense of sex and identity. It didn't matter there, only the music did.