see also Uncle Nemesis's review of C8  
Backstage at C8
~by Steph Quinlan
(photos by Macross)

This year's incarnation of the annual net.goth gathering brings us to majestic Montreal, making  this the second time that Convergence has landed  on Canadian shores.

Friday night at The Spectrum kicks off the official first night of Convergence 8, and what better way to get the evening underway than a very special appearance by the one and only Capt. Matt's Armada Featuring Axel (where Trevor writes all the songs and does all the work) Introducing Insatiabelle? Do they still have the magic? All eyes are on the stage as four shadowy figures take their places.

As Trevor leans into his guitar and makes it sing, a tall figure in black appears from the black depths of the stage, with a huge green and purple riding penis poised between his thighs. The Mighty Sex-God Axel rides again. It was as if they'd never been away.

Capt. Matt is in fine voice, really letting it rip on classics such as "Cannibal Corsets from Outer Space", while Insatiabelle pounds the skins like nobody's business. In a surprise move, the Sinsational Sirens, once known far and wide as part of the band's entourage, join CMAFA for a spot of go-go dancing during "Casper vs. The Super Zombies".

All too soon, Captain Matt's Armada (where Trevor writes all the songs and does all the work) Introducing Insatiabelle are finished, and with a mighty flourish, they depart the stage, no doubt to start making inroads into the free beer.

Next up is a band I had been waiting for three years to see, the divine This Ascension. Hailing from Santa Barbara, CA, This Ascension performed at Convergence 3, just when I was venturing into the net.goth scene, and I was thrilled when I heard they were performing at Convergence 8.  I did have some reservation though. Much as I love the sensual strains of many a darkwave siren, I'm often disappointed when I see them perform live. The more raucous atmosphere of the concert hall frequently overwhelms those voices that sound smooth and lovely in the studio, and I was hoping that This Ascension would deliver the goods.

Dru, clad in a very fetching black PVC gown and sporting shocking pink hair, steps forward into the mike and puts all my fears to rest. She mesmerizes the crowd with her sweetly aggressive vocals and I'm transported to another plain for the duration of This Ascension's set. Her voice, alternately low and sweet and piercingly high and pure, soars above the insistent beats of "Fuego Cayendo", while the band creates a perfect blend of sound and rhythm behind her.

With the exception of the bass player, who works the stage like a pro, the rest of the band keeps a rather low profile, preventing This Ascension from having a more energetic presence, but these are minor details overall.

Bella Morte? Now they are a true revelation.

My exposure to Bella Morte's studio work had left me with an impression of a band that were decent, but by no means exceptional. Without further ado, four fierce young punks storm the stage and proceed to set me, and the rest of the audience, straight as to just how damn good they are. Andy, the mohawked lead singer, explodes all over the stage, bellowing his tales of zombies and mayhem in a strong rich voice that reaches into the farthest corners of The Spectrum. The equally spiffily mohawked guitarist, sporting stunning cheekbone tattoos, grinds out one tight, hard guitar riff after another. The energy emanating from the band is contagious, and the floor is packed with goths bouncing enthusiastically to the fun happy goth-punk tunes.

Without warning, the keyboard player takes a running leap from the back of the stage, launches himself into the crowd and starts an honest-to-goodness-bodies-slamming-limbs-flailing mosh pit. I haven't seen this much energy from a Convergence audience in years! Andy surveys the pit approvingly and barks "This is what we're used to down in North Carolina!"

The next night, Andy reflected on Bella Morte's performance. "This is the first Convergence we've ever attended or played at, and I had a great time last night. It was a great crowd and everyone had a really good sense of humour."

"We feed off the energy of the crowd, and see what they're looking for." he continued. "Everybody seems really chill up here, and I get a real similar feel from all of the goth and sci-fi cons I've been to. I'd love to see one that mixes up punk and goth bands so that the music can blend a little, and the cool thing is that they did get a good variety of bands here (at C8) from across the genres."

Punks came, punks rocked, punks conquered.

The early stages of Saturday night find me in a rather sorry state of affairs. I had spent the day overseeing the Zine Fair whilst in the throes of mild food poisoning from some very dodgy Indian food I had unwisely consumed on Friday night. I collapsed in my hotel room after the Zine Fair, fully intending to sleep for only an hour or two. When I wake up, it's almost 9, and I've missed Bordello's set. Crap!

This up and coming Montreal band had impressed me with their CD single "Strap Me Down", and I had been looking forward to seeing them live. I'm happy to report that my fellow Starvoxian, Uncle Nemesis, had good things to say about their performance.

I throw myself together in record time, dash over to the venue, and arrive in the middle of Swarf's set. Swarf hail from Brighton, UK, and Convergence 8 is their first North American performance.

Chris and Andrew are stationed on either side ofthe stage, hunched over their keyboards, and in the middle of the stage, bouncing like a My Little Pony on speed, is Liz, Swarf's vocalist. An impossibly perky vision in neon pink hair extensions and a stunning corset with reflective white trim, she lets loose with sultry vocals that add the perfect amount of warmth to the smooth electronics, and the crowd loves it. Everywhere I look, people are dancing. Lee Chaos from Wasp Factory Records, Swarf's label, is bopping madly in front of the stage, his face almost split in two by a huge grin.

Backstage, an exuberant Liz tells me that the fates were conspiring against Swarf up until the last minute.

"It was quite frightening because I lost my voice and then our synthesizer broke, and we really didn't think we'd be able to go on. The fact that we made it onstage is amazing, and we were really amazed by the crowd, considering that no one knew who the buggery f**k we were."

"You just said buggery f**k." Chris, her bandmate, points out helpfully.

"Did I?" Liz gasps, and then ruins the effect by giggling helplessly.  "Oh, don't put that in, it's really rude!"

Gracefully changing the subject, I tell Liz that her label boss, Lee Chaos, was getting down very enthusiastically to their set.

"He is like an anchor. If you can see him and he's smiling, then you know it's going well. We'll be doing the same when it's his turn tonight. I don't think North America is ready for The Chaos Engine."

"I'm scared for them" says Andrew, the third member of Swarf. "The audience, that is."

Out in the main room, Cinema Strange unfold like a twisted pantomime. Lucas, their singer, has obscured his face with white gauze, and a small white mask hangs over each eye. I assume he's able to see through the slits of the masks' eerie empty smiles. Styrofoam heads dangle from his wrists, swaying and bobbing with every gesture he makes.. The audience members closest to the stage bat at them like over-sized cats.

His androgynous wail is disturbing and enchanting, in much the same vein as Andi Sex Gang, Virgin Prunes and very early Rozz Williams-era Christian Death. Watching Cinema Strange reminds me of the first time I heard "Spiritual Cramp", all those years ago.

On either side of him stand two fierce visions in fishnet, lace, spiky black hair and death's-head make-up. All hail the return of the almighty Batcave.

The music is challenging and absorbing, and there are no easy "hooks" to latch onto. The tempo jumps all over the place,  the melodies often double back on themselves, and all three band members keep pace with each other with seamless ease. The trio are clearly seasoned performers, and they prowl the expanses of the stage with serpentine grace.  The audience is alternately entranced and confused.

"I really don't know how it went." Daniel, their black-mohawked guitarist, reflects afterwards. " It was kind of silly out there. We really didn't care how things sounded, but we were doing what sounded fun."

"Everyone said it went great, and although it's fallacy to take everyone's opinion as a whole as to what the status was, as far as our performance went, we performed well. Musically, I don't know how it went."

Cinema Strange certainly seen to have all the trappings of a modern goth band, but they also aren't ready to be pigeonholed just yet.

"I don't think we sound gothic at all." observes Daniel. "We dress up and we look kinda cool, but I can't even tell you what our music is."

And now, at long last, it's time for the evening's headliners, The Chaos Engine. Fronted by Lee Chaos, who also runs Wasp Factory Records, the band erupts onto the stage and proceeds to pummel the audience into submission. Hard, fast and loud, The Chaos Engine live up to their name. Lee throws himself about the stage with reckless abandon, his long braided mohican coming perilously close to inflicting bodily harm on the hapless audience members in the front row. Always one to thrown in something unexpected, Lee invites Swarf's Liz onstage for a duet on Heaven 17's "Temptation".

When the band departs the stage, the crowd howls for more. Obligingly, they saunter back onstage, but before they play some more, Lee Chaos has a request. "We'll only play another song", he says, "if Siobhan and Casper [the C8 organizers] get up here too."

Siobhan and Casper try desperately to run away, but a bevy of their closest friends surrounds them and forces them onstage. Hey, what are friends for? Lee Chaos is well pleased.

"You all know the words to 'Kids in America' don't you?" he bellows before launching into an ass-ripping version of the Kim Wilde tune we all know and love as Siobhan and Casper, looking adorably awkward, sing back-up vocals. Down in the front, we all dance like maniacs, singing the words at the top of our lungs. Nothing can touch any of us right then. We are pure and perfect and free.

In the aftermath, Lee reflects on The Chaos Engine's first North American performance.

"It was really hard work tonight actually, it was a very difficult gig for technical reasons. I didn't have enough toys!" he says earnestly. "That was my main problem. I've got a whole bunch of toys and strobes that I normally use onstage to navigate. When I'm jumping around onstage, I can't see, and so I have all these strobes strategically placed so that I know where the edge of the stage is. I couldn't bring those things with me through customs, and they're the musical equivalent of my comfort blanket. Linus has his blankets, and I have my strobe lights."

"It was a huge stage, which was really exciting, but it was like being naked, because I had to run about a whole lot." he adds.

*Corraled for a brief moment, Casper has only this to say.

"There are no adjectieves for how happy I am right now."*

It's 2:30 AM, most of the beer has been drunk, and your humble backstage tour guide is now off duty until next year.

Until C9, my friends.

see more photos from C8 here

The Convergence VIII website (contains full details of the weekend's events):