This is for the hearts still beating

I've been very lucky to see many great shows this year. From Chris Botti to the Jealous Sound to Ben Folds (with and without the Five) to the Afghan Whigs, all of these shows will be in my (usually lengthy) end of the year recap.

Yet it was the show I witnessed last night that trumped everything else I've seen in 2012: Converge with Torche, Kvelertak, and Enabler at Dada. This was a show that reminded me about what life is truly like in the now, not worrying about yesterday or tomorrow. Just living in the present and having a ball. Performances alone made the night, but the kicker was the camaraderie with the people I knew at the show and some of the new people I met.

Before the show began, I had the chance to meet and chat with Jake Bannon at the merch table on the patio. Following up on the conversation we had for this week's My First Show, we talked and talked about other things, like the hold-up on the vinyl edition of All We Love We Leave Behind (that new Beatles vinyl box set is taking up a lot of time at the pressing plant). Looks are very deceiving with Jake: he might have tattoos all over his body, but he's one of the friendliest and approachable guys I've ever met. Thus set a tone for the evening.

Also catching up with Andrew from Torche, whom I had interviewed last year for My First Show, we heard Enabler on in the background. The band sounded good, but their style sounded a little too generic for my tastes. Their blast beats and tortured vocals just didn't do it for me. But when Kvelertak came on, things really picked up. With thick and hearty riffs, the six-piece (complete with three guitarists) just slayed. Many of their songs would just go on and on, in a great way. It was like, Can these guys take things up even more? The answer was always yes.

The soundsystem at Dada handled the overload for the first two bands, and they thankfully did for Torche and Converge as well.

This was my third time to see Torche, and they have never disappointed me. Playing a lot of material from this year's Harmonicraft, the band sound like a big punch in your face. But it was the kind of punch that made you realize how glorious life can be. They're one of the few metal-tinged bands that smiles when they play, and for good reason. Friendly melodies with deep tones done like no other. (They even played some new material that sounded like doom metal, and I thought the overhead speakers were going to fall down.)

Then Converge took stage. This was my first time to see them after listening to them for seven years straight. Kicking off with "Concubine" and then going into "Dark Horse," the floor became alive. (Here's an Instagram of the set list.) Plenty of people moshed while I, along with many others, stood back. The band was everything I hoped for: punishing, unrelenting, but truly inspiring. And when they had microphone problems, they handled things in a pretty funny manner. Riffing on "Linus and Lucy" from the Peanuts specials while getting things straightened up, the band lost a bit of its momentum when the engine got back running. Jake commented that technical issues come with having fun, and he was absolutely right. And he repeatedly thanked the audience for coming out and sharing a positive experience with them.

Ending the set with "You Fail Me" and encoring with a few more (including "First Light" and "Last Light"), I came away happy. I got to talk some more with Jake and Andrew before they had to pack up and head for Austin. Such a great way to end the night.

Now it's the next day and I'm still feeling the buzz. I have three pieces of Converge vinyl to add to my collection, All We Love We Leave Behind on CD, and this special poster made for the show (which Jake signed for me).

Thinking about the show now, it was especially important for me to feel a true sense of belonging in a show setting. I didn't know everybody in the venue, but I enjoyed being around them. Jake shaking my hand and saying "Thank you for everything" means more than just a handshake and greeting; it's that mutual respect that fans of hardcore know very well.

And as a rock music fan, this was a great reminder about how incredible music is still made today. We can lament about sleepwalking zombies with Bon Iver as their soundtrack or garage bands who have no desire to evolve, but we can also celebrate bands like Converge and Torche. They make going to shows a worthwhile experience, and they make paying attention to modern music a purposeful pursuit.

This is why I still love going to shows.