At a Melvins gig in London, not long after moving to the UK, I let in a guy at the bar who had clearly been waiting longer than me. He thanked me and when he heard my accent he asked where I was from. He then said “I’m from Brighton, the gay capital of the world. Its great!”.
Brighton – gay capital of the world, Nick Cave’s adopted home, and I think that they have a beach without sand…
It was a warm day in my then base, Southampton. What an excellent day to go to the UK’s most popular beach? 2 hours on a slow train later, I arrived into a chilly, foggy Brighton… As the afternoon rolled on the temperature rose and the fog lifted.
English people who do not live in London, seem to hate London. Either you like big cities or you don’t. I love London – it has a buzz and there is always so much going on.
The same people who hate London lay the following insult on Brighton - Brighton is like London at the beach. That’s an insult? That sounds fecking awesome.
Like London, Brighton is a cosmopolitan town, buzzing with a lively bar scene. We grabbed some fish and chips on the pebble beach and had a quick stroll around before beelining to Concorde 2.
Concorde 2 is located right on the beach. As the gig finished before 10pm, night failed to fall before we were back at the train station. Occasionally during the four sets, I glanced out the pub window to see the sun still setting over the sea. Sunny, pebble beaches and hardcore punk! Somewhat surreal, dude.
With the sun still high in the sky, punters had only begun filtering in when Kvelertak boarded the stage.
Norwegians Kvelertak, were an interesting mix of hardcore ethic, neck tats and big rock excess. Among the excesses were 3 guitars (none of which was the vocalist) and even synchronised guitar moves.
Suffering from an extremely muddy mix, many of the rock intricacies were lost and the end result was a hardcore sounding set with big rock swagger. Leading the swagger, stood the vocalist. I admire a man sufficiently free of body image issues such that he can de-shirt and let his less than toned bod hang out.
The crowd was still small for Gaza’s set. However the band made it clear that they appreciated that anyone at all had rocked up for their first gig in this part of the world.
Like the previous set, the mix was muddy as feck for all but the last three songs. If there is a genre that can rise above a sh!tty mix, it’s hardcore. Hardcore is about conveying energy and Gaza convey energy, man.
No one showed enthusiasm-despite-the-odds more than Gaza’s guitarist. I have never seen someone work so hard, and still not be heard. The mix gave him nothing until towards the end of the set where we could finally hear all that finger tapping effort.
I thought Kvelertak had a big rock front man – but the Gaza vocalist is literally a big front man. That dude is a lanky, lanky individual. As he crouched on the stage, he brought to mind visual images of menacing superheroes perched on top of city skyscrapers.
The small crowd recipocrated Gaza’s enthusiasm. For all I hate about those who throw windmills and martial arts kicks, I did enjoy watching one kid going at it all by himself. He just had to move.
Kylesa were little bit of the odd man out on the bill. I like a diverse bill. Too much of any kind of music can wear on you.
The crowd rapidly swelled in the lead up to the set. In the long room, I was stuck halfway in with no room to move. I didn’t know if the kids would be up for Kylesa but the pierced kids nodded heads and grooved like seasoned beard rockers.
The Kylesa set was hypnotic and psychedelic. Live, you can fully appreciate the worth of two full drum kits into their sound.
The room filled for the best atmosphere I’ve experienced at a Converge show. There was positivity from the stage and from the crowd.
There is a bit more fun and showmanship about Converge these days… Jacob Bannon continually swings the mic like he’s Roger Daltrey out front of the Who. Bass player, Nate Newton announced a guitar solo from Kurt Ballou.
The sound, still at ear bleeding levels, was far cleaner than the previous sets of the evening. Ballou’s warm guitar tone was easily distinguishable from Newton’s bass and the sound of Koller almost knocking his kit over for an hour.
Opening the set with Concubine, the intensity never has a chance to let up at a Converge show. Diving straight into Dark Horse, the crowd responded well to the more metal material of the current release, Axe to Fall.
Ballou and Newton shared lead vocal duties with Bannon to give an added texture to the vocals of the set.
The thing that caught me most about the set was the positivity. I don’t associate a fun vibe with Converge’s intense records and their soul wrenching lyrics. But fun it was tonight and smiles abound on the stage and on the floor.
Get Some, Get Some, Get Some, Get Some… Go Again!
In a week or so, we did it all again with an 80-minute train ride up to London for Converge/Kylesa/Gaza/Kvelertak at the University of London. Looking back at this gig, I am reminded that my days in Southampton weren’t always so sh!tty. From there any venue in the South of England was within my grasp… And grasp I did for Converge.