Saw "Swans" at The Tralf Music Hall in Buffalo on Friday night. It was the best concert I have seen this year. It was one of those shows where I am so completely absorbed in the music, so engaged in the rhythm of the band, so greedily lapping up my Blue drafts thirst quenchers, - and now that it's over, I am clueless to explain why it was such a great show. It just was.
It doesn't help that while I am a huge Swans fan, and I am cozy with the Swans songbook, I couldn't name by title one song they played. That surprised me. All the more in that I received a review copy of the album that proceeded this global tour - We Rose From Our Bed With The Sun In Our Head.
I jumped into the superb set of elongated anti-climatic guitar drone and secular primal philosophy and emerged completely invigorated, awash with a musical massage that felt like I had just been playfully assaulted by Godzilla. Given the loudness of the show, I also couldn't hear for several hours.
Michael Gira and his 5-man band were a sound prism of noise expertise. The drone, the effects, the noise were all calculated into the rhythm of the music as if they were traditional instruments. It was a wonderful sound that I heard as primal survival in a modern world.
When solo opening act Pharmakon stepped onto the stage, started fiddling with a laptop and proceeded to scream strange sounds into the microphone, I muttered into my beer, "What the hell is this?". I thought she was a stage hand having a nervous breakdown. She then stepped down into the crowd, lopped around, leaning on some, passively confronting some, her microphone chord threatening to lasso the crowd up by their feet, all while screaming (and I mean SCREAMIN'!) a weird indecipherable language into the microphone, as drone effects pulsated from her soundboard. It was brilliantly effective.
Swans leader Michael Gira hit the fan table after the show so I bought a cool Swans poster for him to sign. I always hate having a few moments to convey to an artist how their music has effected me, shaped my life, how brilliant, artistic, blah, blah blah, ... their music is. It always feels so pretentious. I said "blah, blah, blah", he stiffly but amiably responded with an Elvis impersonation - "Thank you. Thank you very much."