Gapers Block has ceased publication.

Gapers Block published from April 22, 2003 to Jan. 1, 2016. The site will remain up in archive form. Please visit Third Coast Review, a new site by several GB alumni.
 Thank you for your readership and contributions. 


Tuesday, January 31

Gapers Block

Gapers Block on Facebook Gapers Block on Flickr Gapers Block on Twitter The Gapers Block Tumblr

« Atmosphere at Congress Theatre, 10/07 Find Your Way to Jamie Lidell »

Review Thu Oct 07 2010

Review: Swans @ Bottom Lounge 10/05

Michael Gira of Swans (photos by Dave Knapik)

If there were ever any doubts that Swans has made some of the most illustrious experimental music in recent years, all were shattered after last night's show at the Bottom Lounge. The band, an ever changing gang lead by Michael Gira gave a strong performance that was rich with both new and older material as well as a testing of the audience's generous patience. You can gage a band's legendary status by the level of entitlement the audience has and Swans are well beyond this level. The fans needed to suck every morsel of sound and be as close to the stage as they could. Many were determined to get their way no matter how many people they had to squeeze through to get closer. It is a sweet testament for a large group of fans to show love for a band with a history as rich as Swans, you just don't want to get caught in the middle.

The room was already pushing capacity when the opener, performance artist and harpist Baby Dee gave an inspired set of spastic movements while playing darkly comical songs that were at their core incredibly beautiful. There are only a handful of musicians who can lyrically push boundaries past the edge of societal levels of acceptance. With many songs about the bleaker side of human interaction, Baby Dee meets this criteria and she was a great opener for the mood of the night.

Before the main act was about to take stage, we heard a long drained out sound and everyone was at the height of anticipation for the show to begin. We were now shoulder to shoulder in the room with no one speaking, all eyes on the stage. This continued for several minutes, the noise varying in degrees of tone from drone like to bagpipe-esque. The sound became like a second opener and feeling was dominating as the band could appear at any second, but didn't. After ten minutes of this cerebral masochism a member came on stage and added to the sound by playing chimes, mixing sounds as the band took their places. The standing members of the band with their backs to us seemed to play to each other, tuning and/or making noise almost oblivious to the masses holding their breath behind them.

Christoph Hahn (photo by Dave Knapik)

The set finally opened with "No Words/No Thoughts", the opening track of the latest Swans album and the first in thirteen years, My Father Will Guide Me Up A Rope To The Sky. The crowd gathered in even tighter to see what they were hearing. The set suddenly backtracked to 1984 and the band's second album Cop with Your Property that had a vengeance on the eardrums as the volume was shockingly increased. "Sex God Sex" was more vibrant live that it was on Children Of God, the eighth release by the band. Gira gave this song more life than ever imagined screaming like a demented preacher from hell "PRAISE GOD!!! PRAISE HIM!!!

There was a short break for banter that was unexpected and welcomed by the audience. Gira, who has been known to be moody smiled and made jokes about all the "sexy haircuts". I realized later that many fans had the same haircut as their hero. "Do you want to hear old Swans or new Swans?" he asked. After a unanimous response for old Swans "Jim" from the latest was played with little complaint.

The entire show was intense within its core, but the shining moment of the evening was the interaction between percussionists Phil Puleo and Thor Harris on "I Crawled" from the classic live album Swans Are Dead. Gira, singing former member Jarboe's part faded in comparison to the rapid energy of cymbal busting going on behind him, but provided a powerful contrast that showed the raw energy of live music.

The last three songs in the set were "Beautiful Child" also from Children Of God sandwiched in bewteen the two new songs "My Birth" and "Eden Prison". The show seemed to be over, but with no one leaving a short encore of the last song from the new album "Little Mouth" was played solemnly followed by a weak good-night from a very tired Michael Gira.

Swans lived up to their reputation as being one of the most intense live bands in the post industrial/experimental world of music. Many things have changed and many years have passed for this band, but the quality of a show that rocks you to your core remains the same. If you were there last night and were a first timer like I was we might have been sharing the same thought, "I have seen Swans live."

GB store
GB store

Feature Thu Dec 31 2015

Our Final Transmission Days

By The Gapers Block Transmission Staff

Transmission staffers share their most cherished memories and moments while writing for Gapers Block.

Read this feature »


  Chicago Music Media

Alarm Magazine
Big Rock Candy Mountain
Boxx Magazine
Brooklyn Vegan Chicago
Can You See The Sunset From The Southside
Chicago Reader Music
Chicagoist Arts & Events
Chicago Music Guide
Chicago Singles Club
Country Music Chicago
Cream Team
Dark Jive
The Deli Chicago
Jim DeRogatis
Fake Shore Drive
Gowhere Hip Hop
The Hood Internet
Jaded in Chicago
Largehearted Boy
Little White Earbuds
Live Fix Blog
Live Music Blog
Loud Loop Press
Oh My Rockness
Pop 'stache
Pop Matters
Resident Advisor
Sound Opinions
Sun-Times Music Blog
Theft Liable to Prosecution
Tribune Music
UR Chicago
Victim Of Time
WFMU's Beware of the Blog
Windy City Rock


Abbey Pub
Andy's Jazz Club
Aragon Ballroom
Auditorium Theatre
Beat Kitchen
Bottom Lounge
Buddy Guy's Legends
The Burlington
California Clipper
Concord Music Hall
Congress Theater
Cubby Bear
Double Door
Elbo Room
Empty Bottle
Green Mill
The Hideout
Honky Tonk BBQ
House of Blues
Kingston Mines
Lincoln Hall
Logan Square Auditorium
Mayne Stage
The Mutiny
Old Town School of Folk Music
Park West
The Promontory
Red Line Tap
Reggie's Rock Club & Music Joint
The Riviera
Thalia Hall
The Shrine
Symphony Center
Tonic Room
Uncommon Ground
The Vic
The Whistler

  Labels, Promoters
  & Shops:

Alligator Records
Beverly Records
Bloodshot Records
Dave's Records
Delmark Records
Drag City
Dusty Groove
Flameshovel Records
Groove Distribution
He Who Corrupts
Jam Productions
Jazz Record Mart
Kranky Records
Laurie's Planet of Sound
Minty Fresh
Numero Group
mP Shows
Permanent Records
Reckless Records
Smog Veil Records
Southport & Northport Records
Thick Records
Thrill Jockey Records Touch & Go/Quarterstick Records
Victory Records

GB store


Featured Series


Transmission on Flickr

Join the Transmission Flickr Pool.

About Transmission

Transmission is the music section of Gapers Block. It aims to highlight Chicago music in its many varied forms, as well as cover touring acts performing in the city. More...
Please see our submission guidelines.

Editor: Sarah Brooks,
Transmission staff inbox:



Transmission Flickr Pool
 Subscribe in a reader.

GB store

GB Store

GB Buttons $1.50

GB T-Shirt $12

I ✶ Chi T-Shirts $15