By Kane Power (@El Heavio)
30.5.2015, Student Union, University of London
Header image credit: Joe Watson Photography
I’ve seen Converge only once before, at Hevy Festival in 2012, and that was a messy, drunken affair at best. My memory of that night was a very serious, very loud, aggressive presence; silhouettes on an iridescent stage. Which makes it sound quite cool really, and it was, but my clouded memory of that night made me approach last night’s gig at the University Of London’s Student Union in a much more sober state.
Converge were on good form, as I’ve been told they almost always are, with impressive displays of technique and endurance from all four members, particularly drummer Ben Koller who was an absolute demon. They were relentless and brutal in their unique way, more accessible and dynamic than death metal but more interesting and immersive than straight up hardcore. The sound was spot on, the crowd was enthusiastic and appreciative, and the drinks were shit. Perfection.
In direct contrast to Converge’s brutal and bleak sound there was a friendly, family vibe throughout their set. When not howling into the mic, Jacob Bannon’s skull-like visage (“witness!”) was either etched with a grin, or expounding on the virtues of removing barriers between the band and audience, encouraging prolific stage-diving all set. It was organic and unpretentious.
Converge are a very successful band who could be playing much bigger venues and selling them out twice over, but they choose to book places like ULU with an 800 person capacity. That means no barriers and the kind of unyielding intensity their fans want from their shows. There was a real, genuine connection and mutual appreciation between band and audience. At one point Bannon said “We are just like you, just a bunch of kids trying to find our way through this fucked up life”, and that’s what it felt like, like we were equals, like we understood each other.
At times the crowd and the band were almost as one, standing incredulous at the moment we had created together, bonding over an expression of dissatisfaction and an exorcism of aggression that only music like this can express. Inadequacies, worries and stress melted away, the outside world was gone, the 9-5 was a distant memory.
As their set drew to a close the band treated us to fan favourite ‘Jane Doe’ in its entirety and released us from their spell. A drove of black shirts and smiling faces wandered out into the night air in a daze, wondering what the hell just happened. Converge happened, and I can’t wait for them to happen again.