I could tell that Swans were really happy about how Saturday night’s show went. And they should have been happy about it. While the audience applauded and moved to the music, there was very little – if no – conversation among the capacity crowd. Instead, they hung onto each lyric and note.
Swans’ music can make me feel really uneasy. I think it’s meant to unsettle. They began their show with a 25-minute version of “No Words/No Thoughts,” the first song off their new album, My Father Will Guide Me Up A Rope To The Sky. The song built up with each band member hitting the stage one by one, starting with a one note droning beelike hum began by Thor Harris. By the time singer/songwriter Michael Gira came out we were ready after the pulsing combination of sounds moving from the floor into our feet and through our bodies. It’s impressive to build this noise and not have it be a painful experience – I’ve been to a lot of loud shows that just really hurt the eardrums.
Other powerful songs were “Jim” (Let’s walk barefoot on this carpet of air/ Let’s piss on the city . . . Ride your mechanical beast to heaven/ Ride your beautiful bitch to the ultimate sin). “Eden Prison,” “Sex, God, Sex” (Praise the Lord . . . come into my heart sweet lord . . . I am open . . . I am torn apart/ I am naked and I am impure/I am sexless), “I Crawled” (Come into my room/ Put your hands on my throat), plus the absolutely great and new “Avatar”. When Swans came out for the one song encore of “Little Mouth,” Gira told us, “You’re all such a good-looking bunch of boys and girls in Seattle. You make me want to teach you a lesson.” “In Little Mouth” he used only his breath at times as vocals – it was beautiful. Gira’s voice was clear and it dug deep. Combined with the music it created an unrelenting symphony of what I might call submission music.
Opening the evening was Wooden Wand, an artist on Gira’s Young God Records label. James Jackson Toth, who makes up Wooden Wand, was joined by two additional excellent guitarists. He’s got an immediately attractive voice and sound. I particularly liked the song “The Mountain”. I would see this band again in a heartbeat.
Review & all photos by Dagmar
Gallery of Swans @ Neumos
Gallery of Wooden Wand @ Neumos