A View From the Pit

Show Review + Photos: The Converse Represents Free Concert Series

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I’ve had a subscription to Decibel Magazine for quite some time. In fact, it’s probably the only reason I ever enjoy the trek to my mailbox. However, I’ll admit that in the past nine months or so, the first thing I’ve done when an issue comes in the mail is flip it over to check out the Converse ad on the back. They’ve created the most genius marketing campaign I’ve seen in years: plucking up-and-coming—and some very successful—rock n’ roll bands from their various places around the globe, putting Converse shoes on their feet, and taking a totally bad-ass photo of them for the back of a widely-read magazine. When I say it’s genius, I don’t just mean from the standpoint of me, the consumer (though I’ll be the first to say the bands make the shoes look real good)—I mean that it’s a full-circle, truly healthy cycle where a band gets their face in a magazine, the sneakers get some fine models, the brand gets to stay hip, and a print media outlet gets a nice big sponsor.

In line with their mission to support musicians, Converse decided to throw a five-day music festival at Slim’s in San Francisco leading up to the big Market-Street store unveiling. It was a free event with a lottery system to win tickets, and every show-goer was given a high-tech wristband that allowed them to “check-in” on a map of San Francisco to, you know, rep your hood and whatnot. Sunday was indie rock, Monday was underground hip-hop, Tuesday was indie pop (is that what Hot Chip is?), and Wednesday and Thursday were a delightfully mixed-up two days of metal and punk and whatever the hell else lies between the two which, lately, has been quite a bit. Naturally, I only went to those days.

Wednesday was lovingly dubbed “the stoner day,” with the heavy, more riff-laden bands playing on the bill, but that certainly left quite a bit of room for diversity: Tee Pee Records’ heavy, retro garage-rockers Hot Lunch opened the gig, and as they’re from San Francisco, many people in the crowd knew their material, but anyone unfamiliar with the band fell in love quickly by the end of their twenty-five-minute set.

Hot Lunch 1 Hot Lunch 2

Next up was Saviours, the dual Flying-V shredders from Oakland that lie somewhere in the vast, awesome land between doom and glam. The highlight of their set, aside from their gratuitous display of riffs, man torsos and long hair, was the surprise of Brent Hinds of Mastodon joining them onstage for a song.

Saviours

High on Fire came on right afterward, and one had to wonder if the people in charge of booking the show understood who they were, as they only got thirty minutes to play. Nonetheless, the mighty trio of HOF pulled out their usual furor they use in sets three times as long, and even saved enough time for the eight-and-a-half-minute long “Snakes For the Divine” as their closer.

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Mastodon came on next, with only a slightly longer set time, and only played tracks from their last two albums—understandable with their short time allotted, but would have been disappointing to old fans if they did that at a headlining show. Personally I’m a fan of every Mastodon album, new or old, and though I secretly hope to hear “Ol’e Nessie” every time I see them, I was satisfied with hearing a beautiful rendition of “The Sparrow” from their latest record at this show. Quicksand, NYC’s influential post-hardcore band closed the night with an explosive amount of energy, but it seemed most people had shown up for the High on Fire/Mastodon part of the evening, and the crowd had dwindled down to the longtime fans.

Mastodon 1 Mastodon 2 Mastodon 3

Thursday night also opened with band from Tee Pee Records: This time was Venice, California’s The Shrine, who managed to blast apart the entirely too-sober, early-in-the-evening crowd with their infectiously catchy, punked-up, thrashed-out riffs. Again, they were only allotted twenty-five-minutes, but that was enough time for them to bust out a chunk of songs from their latest album, Primitive Blast, and dedicate the set to their good friend Kevin McDade of Behold! The Monolith, who passed away in a car accident a couple of weeks ago.

The Shrine 1 The Shrine 2 The Shrine 3 The Shrine 4 The Shrine 5 The Shrine 6 The Shrine 7

Next up was Ceremony, who consistently impress me with their new-wave tinged punk sound and energy that never seems to quit. They mostly played tracks from their 2012 release on Matador Records, Zoo. The Bronx, who are always in top form, played next, with enough stage dives and sprinting around the stage to set a new bar for stage presence at Slim’s, and even saved time to talk shit about the Giants to the San Francisco crowd, which the audience loved to hate.

The Bronx 1 The Bronx 2 The Bronx 3 The Bronx 4 The Bronx 5

A recently reunited Rocket from the Crypt came up next, decked out in their old-school matching outfits. It was obvious that a large percentage of the audience were old fans of the band, and the energy in the room during their set was excellent.

The night (and therefore entire Represent SF series) was concluded when Suicidal Tendencies, all wearing ST gear, naturally, charged onto the stage, got the entire crowd to turn into a pit, and eventually invited everyone to rush the stage. It was like they were daring you tell them punk is dead. That night, it certainly was not.

ST 1 ST 2 ST 3 ST 4 ST 5Suicidal Tendencies Six

All in all, if I had been in charge, I would have had The Shrine and Quicksand switch days so the genres aligned themselves more properly and made High on Fire headline Wednesday (thirty minutes of HOF is simply not enough), but it sure was a good time anyway. Converse: Thank you for supporting the music industry so fully and unabashedly. Everyone is grateful; even us metal heads.

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