Toronto's music scene occasionally features an anomaly known as the "early show." Starting at 6 p.m. and finishing by 10 p.m., the early show is what happens at the Mod Club before dance anthems take over on Friday nights. So, in a genre-bending lineup of hardcore and beyond, Converge and guests Loma Prieta, Burning Love and Vilipend laid waste to the venue before most of the city's restaurants had even finished their dinner rush.
Toronto's own Vilipend joined the lineup at the last minute after Denver's Git Some were unable to cross the border. Vilipend brought mesmerizing noisecore metal to the sparsely populated opening slot. Even though there wasn't much of a crowd to work with, the group stood out with their heavy sound and menacing frontman.
A faulty microphone -- only one of two worked initially -- and a broken bass string held up Loma Prieta's performance early in the set. However, they soon more than compensated with a stunning performance of screaming post-hardcore. Burning Love then maintained the momentum with gritty, macho hardcore that found the band's frontman running across the bar.
With each band, the audience and air got thicker; by the time Converge hit the stage, what started as a sparse crowd was a sweaty packed house.
Converge opened with a slow, sludgy number, warming up for the explosions that dominated the rest of the set. By the time singer Jacob Bannon broke into the second track, the mosh pit swelled, bringing in almost half the crowd. Soon bodies were flying off the stage, and on a few occasions, rabid fans tried to climb the speakers.
The band played mainly from their later catalogue, with tracks like "Reap What You Sow" and "No Heroes" bringing the crowd to a frenzy. There were also a few previews of songs from their upcoming 2012 album, with "Empty on the Inside" standing out as one to watch for.
Converge displayed the full weight of their two decades plus as a band, showing an intuition for audience interaction and ability to engage the crowd throughout the set. Bannon stood out as a seasoned frontman, giving energy and passion without seeming contrived. Guitarist Kurt Ballou moved between oneiric sounds and hardcore riffs with ease. The whole band sounded as good live as they do in the studio, but Ballou's shredding was especially an inspired sight.
When all was said and done, the Mod Club had become a sweaty pit of body surfing and head banging. Toronto had proved its hardcore chops -- and all before 10 p.m.