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Review Thu Oct 07 2010

Review: Swans @ Bottom Lounge 10/05

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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.

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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."

 
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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 »

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