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Convergence 23: Sunday Night at the Church

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I try to place the smell that fills my lungs when I walk in. Previously, there had been vanilla and musk. Now for the life of me, I can’t think anything other than “it smells like vampires”. It’s a little like spicy men’s cologne but without the depth that comes from the mingling of scent and skin.

The video bar is dark red and pulsing with sound, voices sliding between the beats. The DJ booth has an eddy of people, talking, smiling. There’s a tinge of sadness and that strange desperation that comes with knowing this is the last night to be in this place. There’s a need to make sure there are no regrets when dawn breaks and that in and of itself is a form of regret. But, the dark clad people press on to find solace in the shared moments before the night ends and the tendrils of normalcy begin to take hold again.

The other half of the venue is bright with sunlight spilling in as the bands do sound checks. I walk between them filling my lungs with spice and my hand with vodka cranberry. Someone asked me, days ago, if I drank much and I’d told them I didn’t. Thinking over the past three days, I may have lied.

I find myself drawn to the main room where I swear to god I hear bagpipes. The sound is so out of place in this venue with it’s molded tile ceilings and excessive chandeliers that I determine it must be a ringtone. Anything else would be…oh!

Awen is on stage for a sound check and between the drums and synth there he is. A kilted man with bagpipes. I’m suddenly almost franticly interested. The deep underlying drone that signals the bagpipes’ readiness raises goosebumps on my arms straight down my back. IIMG_1182 feel faint traces of what Celtic heritage I can claim rise to the surface as the drums begin to thunder behind the bagpipes. It reminds me of the first time I heard a pipe and drum band, a primal animal sound that reaches deep inside me and connects.

The doors are closed, cutting off the daylight that had been gleefully infringing on our space. As Awen takes the stage for their set, the light shifts, painting the band in flat red and black with faces etched in determination and that casual effortless that only comes with untold hours of practice. To the left the girl holds a pair of sickles and rubs them together, forcing a haunted sound. She looks pleased with herself, knowing the effect she is having on the enraptured crowd before her. They bring out a scythe and long knife, stroking the edges together. Behind her voice the sound is unsettling and goosebumps trail down my arms again.

In any crowd, you can pick out the true believers who have a deep unending love for the band or music, the hangers on who are here by the force of someone else’s will, and converts who are seeing for the first time the power of the music being pushed into their consciousness by the band before them. Today I find myself converted.

Antonym is up next. The two men on stage are almost a matched set–similar builds, hair, IMG_1189body paint, and the dark lighting washes them out to further similarity. I found out later that their names are Nik and Rik, which pleases me. They banter back and forth before exploding in sound. So intensely in fact that one of the keyboards is knocked over, falling to the stage. They raise their hands in victory like it’s all part of the show. It’s clear they are perfectly at home, installed int he darkness and surrounded by too-plush seating like sharp pieces of glass in your carpet after shattering a favorite cup.

They have what can only be described as boyish charm offset by the harsh growl of the vocals and driving beat. They are energy and movement, barely contained by the stage. In turns the lead paces, jumps, collapses, and I imagine the pair as super villains building up to an explosion that will take all of Dallas with them. Or, at least the keyboard. “Can we get like some gaffers tape for this?” they ask with amusement, the second time it crashes to the floor. Nothing dulls the deep desire to make sound, noise and destruction.

IMG_1192A third man joins them for a song and both Nik and Rik weave around the stage, fighting for the limited space afforded by the equipment around them. It reminds me suddenly of MMA fighters circling as they vie for position and power.

I am distracted momentarily by my empty glass and a friend who reaches out for my hand. Alvin wraps his arm around my waist in greeting and paces. His band is up next and the classic air of a caged animal hangs around the members as they tether themselves to the bar for long moments.

My attention falls back to Antonym who is laughing at us after a finishing a lower tempo song–“oh, you like the slow jams? TOO BAD” and launches a final auditory assault, reminding us that for these minutes more, they control us. As always, the end of the set leaves a hole

I’ve come to Convergence almost exclusively for Adoration Destroyed. (And Curse, as previously discussed.) I breathe out my anticipation and arm myself with another vodka cranberry and install myself to the left of center.

“Gonna do the same songs about death and stuff,” Erik warns us. The crowd is enthralled; this is what they’ve come for and they demand he makes good on his promise.IMG_1212

The band starts with my favorite and I know in they set I am the true believer. I know every beat Alvin slams out, every word Erik screams, every note the keyboard guy plays. To be fair, sometimes when you finally see a band live, every song becomes your favorite imbued as it is with the force of the event.

The band feeds off our energy, Erik reaching out for us as he sings. He falls to his knees again eye level to the crowd he needs and the crowd that needs him. Each time he kneels, he reaches for someone new, pulling them into the performance and ensuring they will accept the sound and passion he has to give them, returning it in as equal measures as they are able. No one can quite match the perfectly coiffed marionette in front of us, animated by sound and force of will.

He is rushed on by his energy and the force of the true believers in the front, screaming lyrics back and drinking in the driving beat of the trio. “We love the abuse,” someone in the crowd screams and I can’t help but agree. They debut a new song and it is well received–the understanding that one new song means two, means maybe three, means more Adoration Destroyed is coming echoing through the venue.

Lorelei Dreaming joins them be-feathered and laughing in a scene that’s repeated itself over and over this weekend–a sharing of stages and blending of talents. Erik takes her hand to introduce her and I think I she looks like a goddess. Another singer finds a microphone behind them and they howl out Voices Carry, consuming the stage and leaving it in shambles from the sheer force of their combined energy. This is the best of Convergence–seeing the sharp distinctions between bands melt away as they merge and lend their talents to other projects enhancing them and never detracting. They all bow and wave before disappearing.

I find Erik afterwards and he’s grateful, gracious, and all around kind. He smiles from a deep IMG_1234place that’s reflected in his eyes as we chat. Drawn in (and a little drunk), I fumble with my phone, trying to get a selfie. He laughs and takes it from my hand, assuring me ‘I’m good at these.’

Larva is another vocal assault on stage. He is painted and decked out in gear that looks like it was stolen from the set of a football-based zombie movie: dirty, gray, and clearly football pads. His face is painted and the effect is a demented metal clown coming out from all your secret places to torment you. He seems to be armored against his own assault of sound and power. I’ve found myself in one of the leather seats towards the back of the room–a vantage point where I can put my feet up and peer on eye-level with the performer and watch the crowd as it roves. Alvin sits next to me long enough to make fun of my drink before wandering off again, weaving into the tapestry of performers and bats that make up the denizens of the venue.

He leans forward dragging the crowd into his insanity. Smoke fills the place and he performs through and explodes. I imagine he’s a spider, limbs falling, reaching for prey within the crowd. He paces and I think the stage is his web and his voice the entrapment.

Towards the end of the hist set, he off the stage to engage the crowd. Eye to eye. They scream and reach to touch him. He has shed his gear, his shirt, and stands before them before falling to his knees in a final supplication for our attention.

As the night marches on, the crowds shift and reform. There are quiet places you can sit between tonight and tomorrow to make plans or hold tight to the fleeting moments. The video bar holds a few souls talking or dancing between sets. There’s a sense of wanting to drink up everything.

Solemn Assembly takes the stage, filling it with bodies and equipment. Behind them images of broken, abandoned buildings scroll and twirl. Joe Virus seems like he’s a hundred feet tall in a combination of the stage height and his sheer presence. He spreads his arms and takes in the full crowd, welcoming them to his insanity. They are colored in blue from the lights, casting strange shadows around them. I watch, enthralled, as the background shift to men working in a factory. It fits the pace, frantic men pounding on metal and making machinery bend to their will as the music fills the space.

The two guys from Antonym find the stage behind them, wailing away on what seems to be an oxygen canister. They bring the same energy slamming against the metal as the lead singer screams and fire erupts beghind them on the screen. The melding of bands and glee they put into preformingas background charevters to another performer is intoxicating. It speaks to the community and willingness to preform–the deep need for preformance. The need and drive to be on stage and recognized. This feels to me like the fireworks finale of Convergence. The stage is full of Texas’s hometown, gothic pride and I find myself deeply jealous of the community I can see before me.

Between sets, a goddess sits next to me, resplendent and bejeweled. We make small talk about beauty and clubs named after churches before she moves on. She’d stopped because she was worried I was alone and needed the company. I’m glad for it.

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Adrian H and the Wounds are announced. Morose notes filter through the red haze, finding willing and receptive ears. the band is cast in silhouette and projected behind them, claymation figures pantomime Christian nicety and twist–the lyrics tell a story and the figures are almost telling a different one as they describe peaceful scenes twisting into carnage and nudity.

The band is nearly secondary to the imagery and force of sound they’ve created. It feels like Tom Waits and Sisters of Mercy had a baby that they abandoned in a whorehouse. I am wrapped up in it and swept away in the sensory overload. Humans are silhouettes against the surreal and often bloody claymation backdrop. I find myself so deeply engrossed that for long moments this is the only band that’s ever played.  There’s a growl in the vocals that pulls me back to the comparison of Tom Waits and Townes Van Zandt, more touch points from my childhood that creep up through the cracks.

I inexpertly operate my phone, pressing my thumb to the fingerprint scanner in order to own as many songs as iTunes will provide me.  I will later fall asleep with this music on and dream about claymation pigs.

The set completes with more porn and the crowd howls approval.

Angelspit takes the stage with the quiet force of a group that knows we are here for them. They materialize and the lead grabs a cell from the crowd recording himself as he sings. He’ll do this several times tonight, caught up in the imagery of his own perceived narcissism.

IMG_1259They each stand out in sharp relief against the backdrop of words projected behind them gyrating and enticing us to scream. We oblige, pleased and willing. A large part of the crowd had been waiting for this moment all weekend and their temporary gods oblige their patience.

I confess how sexy I find them to the girl next to me who takes some of the ice from my drink confesses one of them is her husband and says we should get pics later. Later, I’ll have to apologize for licking him. I find myself, more than once, making that apology.

She pulls me towards the stage and I can’t take my eyes off the men before me. He presents his profile, a practiced preformed who knows his angles. You imagine as you watch that you are s that exists. They scream in front of classic yuppie lives breaks it down and reforming it in their own image. I cannot help but to scream out my frustration at the corporate life I will lead when I leave this oasis of sound and haven of originality.

“Fuck the revolution,” we scream in response as he holds the microphone to the crowd. They know and expect our compliance with their aggression. The entire club knows the lyrics to IMG_1257100% and parrots it back in harsh sing song, abandoning thoughts of being able to speak tomorrow. This is all that exists and is all we need.

As they scream and tug, I am impressed by the versatility of mic stands as holders and weapons. He picks it up and gestures at the crowd in a way that is both a threat and a promise.  He sweeps it around and on a shorter stage may have taken out the front row.

The set ends and the room is silent for a moment before being refilled with music and what voices are left after the howling back of lyrics and admiration.

There’s more music filtering in both sides, presented by DJs who are in love with the genre and in love with the humans that are filling the space.  I find person after person to make a connection–handing out cards, trying to type our names in Facebook, and pressing bodies tight in hugs and other affections.

I don’t want to leave, but I am drunk and the next day brings more travel.  I stretch and leave Convergence for the promise of Waffle House and a soft bed.

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