Neurosis, Converge, Birds in Row @ Canton Hall

Photos by Dustin Schneider

Neurosis, Converge, and Birds In Row at Canton Hall

By Matt Stubbs of the Jerry Jonestown Massacre Show

If you’re a student of the Arts of Metal, then you have probably heard terms like post-metal, avant-garde metal, post-hardcore, sludge metal, hardcore, metalcore, progressive metal, hardcore punk, apocalyptic metal, melodic hardcore, drone metal, stoner metal, and psychedelic metal. No need to worry if you haven’t mastered all of the brutal class vocabulary. All you really need to know is “bad-ass”.  And that’s exactly what the scene at Canton Hall was, on Friday, July 20th, in the Year of the Dog. This was where the praise and worship led by Neurosis and Converge took place. A night full of straight-edgers, trippers, long-hairs, bald heads, bald spots, punks, emos, heshers, stoners, and beer lovers all packed in for a special musical treat in Deep Ellum, TX. This hot Texas night began with the French three-piece, Birds In Row.  

The first band on the bill was Birds In Row. This catchy 3-piece was a perfect appetizer for the noise dinner. Birds In Row started their set with an airy bleed of feedback and echoes, which was a common theme throughout the night. The raw double time laden music was often interrupted with cool slowed down and half-time jams. And all of their music was layered with angsty screams from the guitarist/ vocalist and backup screams by the bass player. This band reminded me of Refused, and I loved it. The coolest part of Birds In Row was their message to the audience. Lot’s of bands use their voice while playing songs, but this band took timeouts during their set to explain what some of their verses and screams were all about. And it was a very positive vibe. The vocalist even invited the crowd to come talk to them at their merch booth after the set. They weren’t being cheesy either. It felt like actual concern and empathy. I thought this was a very ballsy move from a foreign band that was playing in a big bad city in the United States of TEXAS. The positivity continued with the second band that I came to see, Converge.

The band Converge brought their A-game to Dallas. This four-piece hardcore act set up behind no curtains with no army of road crew, unlike most rock stars. It was like watching your good friends band getting set up to play at the dearly missed Rubber Gloves Rehearsal Studios. Kurt Ballou is my favorite guitarist/ producer in hardcore. After he got set and his pedals tweaked, he kind of started noodling around with what sounded like Fire Woman, by the Cult. I think he kicked on a synth pedal and loopy effect. Ballou set his guitar down with an ambient echoing noise coming from his rig and walked off the stage for his pre-show rituals. And the rest of the band soon followed suit. This cool show tone was followed by my favorite track off Converge’s latest EP (The Dusk In Us), Reptile. Jacob Bannon hit the stage like a Muay Thai Jedi. As the vocalist of Converge he fakes nothing. Bannon is a, “what you see, is what you get” type frontman. At times Converge sounds like a dump truck that has had the E brake of feedback pulled by the driver. And at other times a sound of sludgy headbanging march of hardcore. This high energy great band is driven by Mr. Bannon’s life coaching primal screams. He is there during the set to remind you that you are alive, get up, get up now, go and slay the fucking dragon. Jacob performs his art like a cornered bobcat. He’s willing to coexist with you. And he is also willing to rip you to shreds if you mess with him or his clowder. Kurt’s guitars matched the intensity with wailing bends and vibrato at perfect times during this hurricane of sound. His guitarwork cuts through perfect when it need to. And he lays concrete thick rhythm down as well. Nate Newton the bass player of Converge, not to be confused with the three-time SuperBowl Champion guard of the Dallas Cowboys greatest football team of all time in forever Amen, killed it. His bass tone is a staple to the metalcore subgenre. Nate’s performance was so on point that he even let the audience play some of their music while he enjoyed watching the riot for a bit. Laying down the drums for Converge is no easy task, and hardcore sergeant of arms Ben Koller gets the job done. Ben’s drums are like an unrelenting flogging that the metal fans must take in order to absolve all their toxicity. I don’t think I’ll ever miss a Converge show that comes to town. It affects me in too positive of a way. Every time I see them I want to go run a marathon or start training for the IRONMAN. Converge is a four piece from Massachusetts and are “bad-ass” and put on a “bad-ass” show. I was energized and pumped for Neurosis who came up next.

I know this sounds like “Get off my lawn!” old guy, but if there were no Neurosis taking you to dark places for reflection, then there would be no Mastodon, Isis, or Tool to take you there either. Neurosis flexed their doom metal muscle hard on Friday night. The band is notorious for their droning lulls followed by face pounding chord progressions and sludgy guitars. The guitarist/vocalist Scott Kelly vocal stylings are imitated all over modern metal now. His primitive howlings haven’t lost any power. Steve Von Till shares vocal and guitar duties as well. Steve’s unique use of Fenders for his dark eerie guitar work was a joy to watch. At times, during the Neurosis set, all 4 mics at the stage front were being assaulted with guttural growls and yells. The bands keyboardist, Noah Landis, is a magic man. His use of samples and moody effects were on full display Friday night. He helps create the feeling of being kidnapped by that black thing in your bed that swallows you during night terrors. Neurosis is that feeling and they are that black thing. During the set Dave Edwardson played like he was an escaped mental ward patient that was only on this planet to play bass in your ear loud and heavy. Dave’s bass playing is key to the spell Neurosis puts on its fans. Laying the grooves and bobbing the worshiper heads on drums was Neurosis drummer, Jason Roeder. He is another pioneer of sludge and doom. All of the drums he banged were big pillars of sound. Neurosis is an amazing band. They tease you at times with dark and pretty soundscapes that make you feel like you are going to get out of the dark pit. But then pull you right back in and swallow you whole.

All band members in Converge and Neurosis are pioneers in their art. And Birds In Row are cavaliers in their music as well. This was a great night of emotional highs and lows felt through the power of music. As usual, the Canton Hall in Deep Ellum, TX supplied the perfect dark atmosphere to see this monster of a rock show.