If you grew up listening to any form of metal or hardcore, you’ve probably heard of Converge. Hell, even if you don’t listen to those genres, you’ve probably seen their name floating in the literary ether of music publications, or seen some denim vested punk sporting their now iconic Jane Doe symbol, either as a well-worn patch or permanently inked on their arm. For all of the accolade, I was shocked to see that the Vancouver date didn’t sell out until the very last minute, especially since the East Coast band doesn’t get out West much — and when they do, it has been as the supporting act to bigger, cheesier metal bands at venues like Rogers Arena. Seeing them headline the Rickshaw might be a treat that we will not be privy to for a long time.
Opening up the night was Salt Lake City’s Cult Leader. The band gained a lot of ground in the metal scene in 2015 with their full-length, Lightless Walk and I had heard rumors that their live show was even more destructive — I was excited to witness the carnage. Unfortunately, their set was a disappointment. They were loud and exceptionally tight, but the energy I was expecting simply wasn’t there. Their presence floated somewhere between forced metallic antagonism and road-worn apathy, though the later seems unlikely given that Vancouver was the first date of the tour. A few people in the crowd were incredibly into it and a circle pit or two opened up during their set. Technically they were right on the money, but I was expecting a slam dunk and Cult Leader missed the hoop by a hair.
Up next was Sumac, sporting local talent and Dave Grohl’s favourite drummer, Nick Yacyshyn, making the act the most “local” of the night. Their set was a formidable collection of cuts from Sumac’s largely experimental catalog, pushing the rigid boundaries of metal to the very limit. It was an impressive performance that at times seemed like it would wash the crowd away in a flood of maddening feedback, only to have the trio reign the composition back to shore in a crash of guitars and cymbals. The supergroup — completed by Aaron Turner of ISIS fame, and Brian Cook of post-metal behemoth Russian Circles, in addition to Yacyshyn — was mesmerizing to watch, and even though Cook suffered through myriad technical difficulties, the set was tight, unpredictable, and incredibly moving, albeit a bit on the long side. When Sumac finished up, Turner stepped up the mic and dedicated the set to love before he departed from the stage.
Soon after Converge took the stage, the Rickshaw was buzzing with life, the theatre filled to its absolute capacity. Guitarist Kurt Ballou heralded in the night with the intro riff to “Reptilian,” off of their new album The Dusk In Us, which would comprise the majority of the set for the night. Converge are a force to be reckoned with, and their performance made it clear why they have more than deserved their status in the metal world. Every member met the crowd with an energy unmatched by any of the previous acts, and they bounced between their newer material and some unexpected tunes from their previous releases with ease.
There’s also something to be said for the positive banter that vocalist Jacob Bannon inserted between songs. Though Converge is not known for cheer and positivity, Bannon had no intention of keeping up the dark frontman persona when he addressed the crowd which was incredibly refreshing to see. Instead he spoke candidly and with the same informality you would use to speak to a friend you haven’t seen in a long time.
The hardcore veterans kept the energy up through the entire set and, in response, the crowd turned into a mass of screaming voices and flying limbs, all feverishly reaching for the mic. Looking into the crowd you could see the impact the band has had on so many generations of punk and metal fans — barely-20-somethings and people well over 40 all yelling along with Bannon’s cauterwal scream in unison.
Converge closed off the main segment of their set with fan favourite “Last Light” before returning to the stage to encore with a trio of songs from their magnum opus, Jane Doe. They thanked the now exhausted and sweating crowd for their time and waved goodbye — friends departing and promising that they’ll be back again before you know it. Let’s hope that’s true.