Deafheaven and Programm, Toronto ON, Nov 21, 2014

Converse Rubber Tracks Live:
with guests Programm
Opera House, Toronto ON
Friday, November 21st, 2014

Metal as a genre doesn’t have the anti-establishment reputation of punk, but it still doesn’t seem all that likely that heavy metal would be ripe for corporate sponsorship. Nevertheless, in recent years we’ve seen such sponsorship beginning to flower, with corporate brand names like Scion throwing its support behind metal music and events. Cars and Norwegian black-ish metal might not have that much in common, but Scion AV’s backing for Enslaved’s Sleeping Gods EP didn’t undermine the music integrity of that impressive 2011 release, and Scion Rock Fest in California has boasted some pretty impressive line-ups.

One of the latest representatives of corporate commodity production to throw their financial weight into the heavy metal  camp is Converse – in the vehicle of Converse Rubber Tracks. We mentioned Converse Rubber Tracks here on Hellbound a couple of months ago already – when Adam Wills had the chance to ask Axeslasher’s Professor Pizza about his experience recording in the Converse studio.

Now here we are talking about Converse again, this time in the context of live performance – specifically the Toronto date of Deafheaven’s five-city Converse Rubber Tracks sponsored tour.

You may choose to quibble about whether Deafheaven, and even more so Programm, belong in a discussion about metal and corporate sponsorship. Until I witnessed Deafheaven perform live I would have told you to get off your high horse and stop being a metal purist and that if people are consuming Deafheaven as metal that’s as metal as they need to be.

To my own surprise it wasn’t the corporate sponsorship or even the neo-new wave/shoe gaze openers that made me feel so very un-metal at Deafheaven’s recent live performance. It wasn’t even (I cringe as I fall in the lazy trap of this categorization) the more than ordinarily “hipster” audience filling the Opera House that Friday night.

I actually enjoyed Programm’s opening set. It was fairly laid back – and, I think, the first time I’ve ever seen a bass player on stage in a pull-over sweater. But their moody performance helped ease me into live show mode, and made me feel a little nostalgic for the New Romantic era of popular music that was really a little before my time.

There was a significant delay before Deafheaven made their appearance, but they weren’t being prima donnas. This was the week of the Buffalo snowpocalypse and it sounded like the ripple effects threw a glitch in a couple of band members’ travel arrangements. But they did eventually arrive and the band didn’t show any noticeable fraying from the belated start.

What struck me most about Deafheaven’s set was how non-metal the band looked and sounded. Sunbather was one of Adam’s favourites of 2014 so I’ve been exposed to the record several times. But it’s not until I experienced it live that I really began to feel that Deafheaven’s music belongs outside my usual taste domain. The vibe was somewhere between Alcest and a shoegaze/hardcore hybrid and the odd guitar lick thrown in here and there couldn’t convince me of anything different.


The whole show was actually rather impressive. And though you couldn’t ignore the Converse presence – literally or symbolically – this didn’t have any real effect on what was actually happening on or in front of the stage. But it’s pretty clear, to me at least, that I’m an old stodgy metalhead, and as much as I enjoyed the evening out (out of my usual experience, not just out of the house), I left feeling a bit like I’d had a friendly-ish alien encounter and I likely wouldn’t go out of my way to see Deafheaven again.

All photos by Adam Wills.

Laura is associate editor of and co-host of weekly metal show Kill Eat Exploit the Weak on CFMU 93.3 FM. She loves doom, prog, cats and basketball, believes in equity and social justice and is not cool with any form of discrimination, marginalization, harassment or oppression.

Adam has been a photographer for Hellbound since day 1 and also has a hand in the technical aspects of running the site.