Sunday, October 2, 2011

Soundtracks for the Deaf: SWANS Live

"Byah Byah Byah, hey hey hey"
Swans, formed in 1982 and recently revived, showed no sign of age or weakness last Wednesday at The Music Hall of Williamsburg (albeit minor setbacks as front-man Micheal Gira blew out two amps). Notorious for their live performances the band set out to live up to their painfully loud legacy of making concert goers pay with their hearing.

Swans are a band I've only come into recently. Having first heard them by way of Nadja covering them I didn't know about their heavier, dirtier side until recently. That said, I am, by no means an avid fan, expert or even knowledgeable about the band. I think such a statement would speak volumes about the band as a person like me was completely blown away by their performance.

Openers Sir Richard Bishop and Wovenhand attracted a crowd, but as solo performers upon a large stage they looked out of place. The rustic, eerie folk of Wovenhand would have fared much better in a small coffee shop, log cabin, or wild cave and the fretboard wizardry of Sir Richard Bishop felt a bit flat without anything to back him up. I'm sure these two are great on record, or a proper venue, but they were a bit boring up on that large stage.

As expected, the show was the loudest and most overwhelming concert I've ever been to in my life. It wasn't just feedback and the droning sections that got me, or the drummer's fury upon a rack-mounted bass drum, but every little nuance of the band formed a huge, fractured sound that came together and split apart in such a way that was as beautiful as it was ugly. Gira flailed around and looked utterly possessed as the band occupied the stage for two plus hours. Most of the set list I assume to be from their most recent work, although I recognized the last track as it was from Soundtracks for the Blind. Employing well over a dozen different instruments, no keyboards, and a very well put together sound, Swans were just enough messy to be authentic and organic without being sloppy or bad in anyway.

I was so enamored by the band and this beautiful screened poster that I opted for the wrong date. Much nicer than the one done for us New Yorkers.
Chaotic, cathartic, loud, and overwhelming, Swans proved to be more of an experience than an event.


Anonymous said...

The album art is incredible. I'm sad I missed that show.

Andrew Childers said...

definitely give early swans a go. it's some amazing stuff. aggressive, grisly, nihilistic noise.

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