It's oddly prophetic. I was looking up Paul McCartney live videos yesterday for no reason, and I remembered the lyrics to "Hey Jude" as I was at The Bottleneck last night. "Take a sad song and make it better." When I found out earlier in the day that Converge would have to skip our date and Colorado because of van troubles, I considered not even going for a while. But it turns out that Coalesce and co. did just what Sir Paul was writing about: they took a potentially depressing situation and made it better than anyone could have ever expected.
With a lowered price (and a $5 refund for everyone who bought advance tickets), pushed-back start time, January weather in May and some really friendly people waiting in line with me, the show finally got started around 8:30. Local hardcore band Canyons started up with no soundcheck and barely an introduction. While each member of the group had a couple of hiccups that sounded like they could be fixed with more practice and a run-of-the-mill hardcore sound, Canyons really got the show off on a good foot. It set the feeling for the rest of the evening.
Why We're Not Paid To Think
Touche Amore, who is replacing Lewd Acts for the rest of the tour, was up next and they were by far the most melodic band on the bill, yet they were still great. The crowd was screaming along with every song and sometimes there was only the crowd and the singer screaming without the help of any instruments. Really cool stuff. It was their first time playing and I hope they come back real soon.
If you've listened to Trap Them but want something even better, Black Breath is the place to go. Perfectly combining the grind/hardcore/crust punk that Trap Them does so good and adds just a hint of black metal in the way it's played and you've got a real winner. The Bottleneck was transported back to the 80's by how many gigantic circle pits were happening. Lots and lots of headbanging. A real stand-out on a tour full of stand-outs.
I'm going to try doing something that will be really tough for me. I'm going to try and put into words just how good Coalesce's performance was. But it's hard. Coalesce is not a band that you can quantify how good a performance is. You can't say, "I can bang my head this hard to Coalesce" or "I can scream along to Coalesce this much" or anything else like that. Coalesce seamlessly combines hardcore, metal, sludge, stoner, mathcore, and noise rock into one of the most challenging, intense, beautiful pieces of musical art I've ever witnessed.
Coalesce does not need gimmicks. In a heavy music scene today where giving 110% during a live show is measured in how hard you windmill or how brutal your music can be, Coalesce wipes the floor with everyone. Every member acted like a man possessed. More than once, Sean Ingram, the vocalist, collapsed to the floor from completely screaming until his body gave out. This is not planned, he does not do this to make people thing "Wow, he must be giving his all up there." It just happens because I can tell that these guys eat, sleep, and breathe what Coalesce is all about. The guitarist, Jes Steineger, literally had his eyes rolling in the back of his head as he slammed his fist against his guitar and convulsed into the crowd. It was as frightening as it was genius, the raucous cacophony came together into one of the most intense and personal performances I've ever seen. As they tore through their entire catalog, including Ox and Ox EP, the crowd never let up. They sang along, they stage dived, and everything the crowd gave to Coalesce, Coalesce gave back even more. One of the most inspiring performances I've ever seen, and one of the best.
There's a reason Coalesce are considered legends of the hardcore/metal scene. For an hour on a cold, rainy night in Lawrence, KS, four normal-looking dudes transported an eager crowd back to a time where metalcore wasn't a dirty word. Pure art.
M Coalesce: 10/10
M Black Breath: 9/10
M Touche Amore: 8.5/10
M Canyons: 7.5/10