Review and Photos by Natalie Zed
Well before the doors opened at the painfully early hour of 6pm, a large queue of short-haired, surly-faced hardcore kids gathered in front of the Mod Club, spilling onto the sidewalk in a sprawling, excited clump. While some early shows wind up being achingly empty for the opening band, this was certainly not the case for this particular event. Once the gates finally swung opened, the venue filled steadily until it was absolutely stuffed to capacity, bodies pressed against each other from the stage to the merch tables.
I was particularly happy to see a healthy crowd filling up the space for the opening band, as the act in question was Vilipend. The Toronto noisemongers were tapped to open this show after Git Some were unable to get across the border. Their nerves, in the opening moments of the set, were palpable; rather than the red-hot blast of aggressive energy they usually throw off, like the door to a furnace has suddenly been flung wide, the feel of their set was instead characterized by a crackling, jumpy kind of electric current that gradually gathered in strength like an storm. Notoriously confrontational front man Christopher Gramlich was more amiable than usual, pleasantly giving the crowd permission to enjoy themselves instead of just sedately bobbing their heads along. Nervous expressions on the band member’s faces morphed into snarls and furrows on intense concentration as the lean, 20-minute set progressed, culminating in the vicious new song “Fool’s Gold.” Under short notice and a great deal of pressure, these Toronto boys performed brilliantly.
The crowd swelled from comfortably full to jam packed during Vilipend’s set, so Loma Prieta walked out to a near-capacity crowd. The band’s name is a reference to a deadly 1989 earthquake that devastated the San Francisco Bay area, and they take this connection seriously, manifesting a seismic, disorienting force in their music. Their set was on the long side, making it difficult to maintain rapt attention during their more alienating moments, but they consistently reeled me back in, particularly the crashing, clamourous “Fly By Night.” The highlight of their set was unquestionably the last chunk of their performance, when they played several pieces from their multi-part “Trilogy” saga. In particular “Trilogy 1 (Sick Cities)” is a snaking, destructive piece that crashed over the venue is waves.
Direct support was provided by Toronto’s own Burning Love. Lead vocalist Chris Colohan was a member of the seminal Southern Ontario hardcore act Cursed, whose influence has a dramatic impact on the structure and sound of contemporary hardcore to this day. The rest of the band is made of of members of the now-defunct Our Father. Burning Love have a considerably more punk aesthetic than that of their progenitors, and as such the songwriting is not as tight. Their raw, excited energy is weighted down by sludgy elements, a sticky, lugubrious quality that smothers and drags. Grit against melody and tar against metal, their aesthetic seems to be at war with itself – and the fallout can be quite brilliant. Burning Love are currently working on a new album, Rotten Thing To Say, due to be released by Southern Lord on June 19th. I look forward to hearing the lovely wreckage that they produce.
The crowd has been somewhat subdued up until this point – enthusiastic, certainly, but also markedly restrained. Any semblance of holding back vanished, however, the moment the opening strains of “Jane Doe” rang out. Converge are an overwhelming band to see live, vicious, visceral and breathtaking. The set quickly settled into a hard, driving rhythm, and the entire audience was carried along by it, compelled, possessed – taken. It can be difficult to talk about music and sexuality in a way that isn’t sensationalizing or reductive, but there is no question that the sheer aural force of Converge is an intense experience that borders on the erotic. “Hell To Pay” became an awful promise in Jacob Bannon‘s throat, and the raw, wounded rendition of “The Broken Vow” was nearly beyond endurance. By the time the the encore, “Concubine,” wrung out its last notes, and the lights finally came on, the audience found itself in a sweat-soaked, blood-stained heap. Spent and reeling, is there any wonder why we do this to ourselves over and over again? Not one.