When financial pressures and rising rent costs threatened to close London’s infamous (an yes, it’s one of the few venues that probably deserves such an epithet) 100 Club, Converse trainers stepped in with their chequebook to make sure the venue kept its doors open. This Summer, Converse also presented a series of curated nights at the venue, under the banner of ‘Converse Represent’. When it got to the heaviest of the shows – headlined by none other than Overkill – we sent that skinny punk beanpole, Tom Doyle, down to see what was what.
Six things we learnt when we sent Tom Doyle to Converse Represent at the 100 Club:
1) So here we are then at London’s legendary 100 Club, being asked to “Represent” by Converse. Of course in order for us to represent, Converse’s marketing department also have to represent by doing their research and putting on a coherent gig rather than just thinking “we should probably do something for that metal lot, seeing as we had Paul Weller in here the other week“. As it is this show is curated with the level of precision you might expect from a man walking arbitrarily through HMV’s Rock section, featuring four bands with virtually nothing in common and as a result a crowd which is so noticeably partisan that this barely feels like a gig at all, but rather the cynical marketing ploy that it is. Oh well.
2) The sound isn’t great either. The ugly, sexy noise of openers Wet Nuns falls into a frustrating cacophony, with guitarist Rob throwing his guitar to the ground in despair at such a hamstrung opportunity to show a decent sized crowd what they can do.
3) Similarly, the technical noodling of The Safety Fire struggles to really catch light amidst confusingly up and down levels, which undersells the lightening fret-work and jazz freestyling they offer in spades. Geographically too there are problems, with headliners Overkill filling the stage with rows of amps and obviously not keen to let anyone else use their big boy drum-kit. TSF are forced to stand out across the 100 Club’s wide stage in virtually a straight line, robbing them of a deal of stage presence and rendering their guitar chucking little more than a through-the-motions run-out for a band who are capable of a great deal more than this. That said, set-closer ‘Huge Hammers’ (from their recent, and very good, album Grind the Ocean) sounds blooming marvellous, and there are glimpses here of what a ferocious live act they have honed themselves into over the past couple of years. Good band, difficult circumstances.
Watch highlights of Converse Represent at the 100 Club featuring Overkill, Pulled Apart By Horses, The Safety Fire and Wet Nuns:
4) Next up are Pulled Apart By Horses, who draw the biggest, most raucous crowd of the evening to the area immediately in front of the stage and then proceed to punch those assembled directly in the gullet with pretty straight-forward but exceedingly tight rock’n’roll shenanigans. They come across tonight as being a little light on originality but full to the brim with showmanship, holding the crowd in the palm of their collective hand as they blast through swaggering number after swaggering number. It does help that they are the only band that the audience really gets behind to tonight – crowdsurfing and en masse handclaps afford this the air of a headline set (which in truth in probably ought to have been).
5) As we smoke, drink and chat outside after PABH’s set it becomes apparent that a great many people are leaving the venue with no intention of coming back, and thus it proves when we return to the venues bowels. The nimble teenagers have been replaced by a group of gentlemen (and it is mostly gentlemen) resplendent in denim, long hair and beer guts. Though there may be fewer of them than the kids who bolted, they rumble into life as Overkill blast their way on stage, spilling beer on all and sundry and generally having a marvellous time of it. The band too look in fine fettle with singer Bobby Ellsworth coming across like thrash’s answer to Gizmo from Gremlins as his gurns into the microphone and runs from side to side like a man possessed. In many ways, it is sad to see a band who have sold over 16 million records globally playing to a sparsely populated 100 Club, but the do so with such aplomb and reckless abandon that it’s almost impossible not to smile your way through their set of no-nonsense metal done the old fashioned way. Loud, fun and dripping in riffs.
6) Converse’s Represent series has, in truth, been a brilliant set of gigs in an amazing and historic venue, but tonight was let down by a scatter gun approach to booking which to the outsider could even come across as a little patronising to the metal and rock crowd. Four very good band does not always a good gig make and perhaps its best that Converse stick to genres they understand a little better next time rather than trying to shove how cool and hip they are down our throats.
Hey! Go buy some Converse trainers. They’re not giving us a kickback on sales or anything. I you just read the article above, you know we’re not kidding. Alternatively, go check out our Future Hits interview with Wet Nuns, our review of The Safety Fire’s debut album, or these photos of Pulled Apart By Horses from Offset Festival a few years back.