(Regular music freelance writer Andy O’Connor writes about Thursday’s lineup at the Mohawk during FFF Nites.)
You’ll have an opportunity to see Converge again Friday at Fun Fun Fun Fest if you didn’t seen them Thursday night at Mohawk. You won’t have seen them in their prime form, though, so the FOMO is still in full effect.
There was no barrier between Converge and the audience at the Mohawk, and the stagehands couldn’t do much to prevent any stagediving. Some kids were acrobats in tight jeans and dark shirts; others descended slowly like a blissful twist on being lowered into a zombie feeding pit. Converge welcomed them all. There was rarely any moment of solace, except for when the band finally left the stage.
Converge’s instrumental section – guitarist Kurt Ballou, bassist Nate Newton, and drummer Ben Killer – understand that tumult does not work at a constant pace, and their shifts in tempos felt like the natural unpredictability of life. Wherever they went, the crowd stepped to it. Jacob Bannon’s voice is rawer than on record, and kids were eager to help him out, whether he gave them the floor or they took it from him. Toward the end of their set, Bannon would act as a conductor for the crowd singing in his place – when he raised his hands, the crowd grew louder. Frontmen like Bannon have a control over youth that politicians wish they had; it’s almost a little freaky how thin the line is between passion and submissiveness. That influence is earned, not bought, and Converge still play like they’re being hounded by dues collectors, even as they’ve longed paid them off.
Salt Lake City’s Cult Leader do not have Converge’s clout, but they did lend their gear to the band as a display of gratitude and hardcore practicality, and their set is already in consideration as one of the Fest’s ultimate highlights.
The band was born under tumultuous circumstances – three of the members were previously in Gaza, who broke up acrimoniously in 2013 – and they still carry that weight in their performance. Cult Leader channeled much of Converge’s jagged rhythms with a doomier slant and a more negative outlook.
Vocalist Anthony Lucero, who played bass in Gaza, wasn’t looking to pump the crowd with warm feelings of brotherhood, and while he gave a shout-out to his parents during the set, it was immediately followed by a confession that he saw himself as a "useless … animal," a reference to their EP "Useless Animal." Bannon praised the diversity of the lineup, but he might have been giving Creepoid and Nothing too much credit. Both traffic in the same sort of bland ’90s shoegaze worship, dressed in more tattoos and slacker vibes. It’s inoffensive, and that may be both groups’ biggest sin. Converge and Cult Leader were thriving off reactions; it was hard to gauge that same passion from either band. Plugging and playing isn’t gonna do if you’re opening for Converge. Both have early slots Friday, and you can certainly fit in a couple mimosas in that time.