House of Vans, we meet again for one last summer show. This venue exists as a fascinating place that’s a weird mixture of commerce and art. It goes without saying that tonight’s final House of Vans show curated by Converge would represent the pinnacle of these tenants. Every wall (and some of the floor) was filled with Converge frontman Jacob Bannon’s iconic graphic work. As a longtime fan of the band and hardcore in general being able to move among these classic pieces took me back to a more youthful point in my music history. I couldn’t shake the memory of the first time I’d heard You Fail Me, I was seventeen and skateboarding with some guys much older than me, just completely floored by how heavy the music was. Fast forward twelve years and I’m in House of Vans and watching Jake Bannon make screen prints of his work live in front of anyone who happened to enter the art room. Just based on the merit of art alone the experience of watching Jake work was gratifying. Then I lucked out by being blessed with a set by Djunah.
Djunah are a wild experience. For all of their minimalism they pack a huge punch in terms of music and the space that their music occupies. It’s heavy, fuzzed out rock ‘n roll. Singer and guitar and synth player Donna Diane absolutely owned the crowd’s attention while occupying the stage. I think what struck me the most is how much was going on sonically between a band with only two members; you’ve got discordant, smashing guitars, ominous synth, then whirling, doomy drums that develop an atmosphere that’s really one of a kind. In some ways there is a spiritual kinship between Djunah and a band like The Armed in that they share a fury that isn’t quite explainable without experiencing it. Imagine a heart opening up into a flame that represents a violent honesty and that flame pouring out and incinerating everything that comes in contact with it and you’ve got only half of an idea of how earnest their performance is. Keep an eye out for them. They’ve only got three songs on Spotify and those don’t quite do them justice (but they do kick ass, I’m just spoiled because I saw them live first).
Second up was Cloud Nothings, a band that made me reminisce on my college years. For one reason or another, this band always existed in the background of every party I’d end up at while spending time at Indiana University. This isn’t to say they’re bad or easily written off as a college band, that’s not what I mean, they just occupy an interesting space for me in my memory warehouse. Seeing them live now as a much older adult was a positively jarring experience. They’ve leaned more into aggression, more into letting themselves smash out a song rather than stick to a confined or contained sound that you might’ve picked up on from their records. This is a band that was always aggressive and just needed to break out of the strange corner music people seemingly backed them into, “angular college Japandroids-like indie punk” or however the hell people would review it. They’re a smart band and their live performance left me hoping they’d stick with sounding loud and proud. A blackeye beaten down sound looks good on them.
And of course, last up was Converge. Metal titans. A new generation’s Slayer. Like I had mentioned before, this band holds a massive amount of nostalgia for me. I imagine many people in attendance had a similar feeling. There’s truly a Converge album for anyone and it was great to see such a wide array of fans of the band all in one place mingling and overhearing conversations about how they got into the band, what a song meant to them, or how stoked they were to see Jake’s art in person. As a Converge fan, you are lucky insofar that the band gives you such a wholly inviting world to occupy between music, lyric, and art. When you’re a Converge fan you’re a part of something intensely personal while also wildly open and sort of awe-inspiring. Their set would go on to be one of the most sync’d up, energetic hardcore shows I’ve ever seen. This band is a unit as much as any band running with the same lineup since the 1990s would be. Everyone in sync. Every note and drum hit and vocal movement precisely calculated and perfect. They are as you would expect them to be: loud, intense, earnest, and fun. Covering a gamut of past and present material, Converge kept everyone’s attention for the remainder of the evening. It was a charming performance to watch and note reactions around. Metal dudes throwing up horns. Hardcore dudes stagediving. Normal dudes looking at their friends and saying holy shit. Women headbanging. Powerful vibes. Under the ever-gazing eye of Converge, everyone was one.