Converge has been a lot of things and a common thread is a strong current of collaboration. If you looked at a Pete Frame-type family tree, it would be a small forest with all the offshoots and internecine bands; Cave In, Old Man Gloom, Mutoid Man, Wear Your Wounds, All Pigs Must Die, Isis, Zozobra, etc… it’s a sprawling beast. So when Converge played Roadburn in 2016 and asked Chelsea Wolfe, Ben Chisholm and Steve Brodsky to play a special set, as expected it went off flawlessly and the seed was planted to perhaps make a unique record with everyone contributing (that particular set was a re-working of Converge songs and some covers and you can read a lot more about it via Rob Duguay’s interview with Jacob from DigBoston).
Last year Epitaph released the fruits of that effort, and tonight would see the ensemble stepping on the stage for the first time to play the material. For those expecting a regular Converge show, well – sorry but you were out of luck. Happily, the rest of us got something very unique. On the surface, the record is definitely less aggro. Bannon spends more time singing than shrieking, and the tempos are dialed down a few notches. But less heavy? NFW. “Viscera Of Me” came out of the gate like a pack of rabid mustangs, but then Koller kept the tempo slower and Wolfe’s forlorn voice spoke of untold loss.
Bathed in red light backlighting, Bannon was animated but unlike a Converge show he stuck to a fairly tight radius around the mic stand. Oh yeah, mic stands are pretty unusual at Converge shows too; did I already say this was a Bloodmoon show? Brodsky flanked the far end of stage right, guitarist Kurt Ballou was on far stage left and the ringing still in my ears was from the rest of the crew. Instruments came and went; sometimes Nate Newton dropped his bass for a Telecaster, Bannon played bass for a song or two and Wolfe likewise played her Les Paul occasionally.
“Coil” was a highlight, the ethereal vocals of Wolfe floating over the boiling turmoil and channeling Sleazy’s body of work while also being a song I could see Sharon Van Etten covering. Spanning genres and exceeding expectations was a common theme tonight, and the collective unit did all that and more. That was the good news. The better news? The Bloodmoon record was titled as Bloodmoon: 1 and I hope that studio time at God City has already been booked for a second helping.
(Former?) hometown heroes Caspian strode onto stage in pitch black, punctuated by blinding strobes. It was a fitting metaphor for what was to come. If you’re not familiar with the band who sprang from Beverly, they deal in the sorts of LOUDsoftLOUD dynamics of the post-rock landscape that was shaped by bands such as Explosions In The Sky and Mogwai; fittingly, Calvin Joss wore a Mogwai shirt with the Scottish crest design that I’d bet he had purchased from the merch table at their show the night before. The marriage of sound and light dynamics were incredibly effective, a total assault on the ears and eyes. To be honest that’s not really hard to do; a blinding spotlight and an air horn can accomplish the same but the way they craft their songs around catchy hooks and then draw them to the ultimate conclusion is a thoroughly satisfying experience.
“Darkfield” was a brewing storm with a powerful payoff, and “Rioseco” was in that same vein… some light drops of rain, the wind picking up a bit, clouds darkening and billowing and then BAM! Hail, lightining, thunder, everything raining down over you. Dying of exposure in the wild never felt so good. The last song was more uplifting and sent the band out on a proper high, statement made. Invigorating set.
Landing opening duties in the somewhat cavernous space of Roadrunner was Walter Schreifels. Billed as the de facto leader of 9os noisecore band Quicksand, I had no idea of his previous work. Standing on stage with just a mic and music stand he proceeded to give a lesson in not how to tune a guitar. Even after discovering that his guitar tuning device clamped on the headstock of his acoustic Gibson was set to ‘ukulele’ (and then telling a sweet story about buying one in Hawaii when he was there with his wife and her thinking he was the best uke player ever) the tuning issues never quite cleared. But a few songs from Quicksand and prior band Rival Schools and two nicely chosen covers of The Cure and T Rex (second time in four weeks I’d seen someone play that live) went over well, especially with pal Stephen Brodsky joining him. Hey, he survived!
Primarily based in Boston, Massachusetts, Tim Bugbee is no stranger to traveling throughout the country or overseas to capture the best live music photos.