Saturday, June 9, 2012

Rorschach at Le Poisson Rouge

Taking your heroes out on tour is a mixed blessing. I'm glad that U2 gave Patti Smith a stadium-sized audience, but does anyone think that "Dancing Barefoot" is best heard in a 20,000-capacity arena? Does anyone remember anything about AFI's 2006 US tour, except that The Dillinger Escape Plan opened? Touring with your favorite artists is honorable, but it can also be dangerous.

Thus Rorschach, a New Jersey artcore band whose dissonant punk rock influenced bands like Coalesce and the Refused, recently reunited for a few East Coast shows, supposedly the last that they will ever perform. At best, this reunion will be remembered as an afterthought to the blazing Converge performance that preceded it.

Saluting two of their influences, Converge sandwiched themselves between Brooklyn's Indecision and Rorschach for a Saturday show at Le Poisson Rouge. It was a venue that Converge could have packed on their own, and they nobly sold no merchandise and took second billing to an elder, less-appreciated hardcore band. Yet onstage, Converge didn't shy away from annihilating their forefathers as if they were any other band.

Perhaps fired up by playing alongside their boyhood idols, Converge played the most violent, spirited show that I'd seen in my ten years of fandom. Moshers were constantly flung up between band members as they roared through their last decade breakneck brutality. Unlike Indecision or Rorschach, Converge's recorded history is ongoing, and their newest songs (promised for release this September 11) erupted with vigor. From the classic hardcore of "Bitter and Then Some" to the enraged blare of songs from their recent Axe to Fall, Converge exhibited one of the most unimpeachable discographies in metal history, backed with urgent, flailing performances by all four bandmates. At the end of "Last Light," the stage was packed with moshers, and frontman Jacob Bannon signaled the end of one of the year's best metal shows.

Rorschach, as performers and musicians, were unsuited to follow. Their sludgier, tricky hardcore, while innovative in it's early-'90s prime, has since been reaped from and bettered by newer bands. This would be fine, were it not performed by five dudes who, either from bitterness or ennui, couldn't muster up the energy to give their music the show that it deserved. Don't buy the too-old excuse--anyone who has ever seen Iggy Pop or Lemmy will tell you that punk rockers can thrash way into their 60s. Even Indecision, the middle-aged, politically-conscious hardcore vets who opened the show, brought more verve to their music than the headliners.

Rorschach left Le Poisson Rouge with an admirable legacy and audible influence, but I'd be surprised if they left the club with any new fans.

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