Wednesday, March 2, 2011


I recently had the thrill of seeing the legendary band SWANS perform here in Portland last Sunday, the 27th. Jesus come down! As you might expect it was relentless, pulverizing, beautiful, ugly. I was confident I wouldn't be disappointed and yet it's always good to have those feelings extensively validated. For those of you who aren't familiar I would recommend you proceed with caution. This group is not for everyone. In fact, taken as a whole, they are for very few of us. I typically stray from making grand pronouncements like this, but Swans are basically the heaviest band I've ever heard. Now there's an interesting thing: This word heavy, that we so often only associate with the various metal genres. Swans are decidedly not a heavy metal band. At every step of their long, zig-zagging career they have defied description anyway. The kinds of tonalities they produce are unorthodox for any group working within the "loud" music field and yet in terms of sheer overall intensity you would be hard pressed to find an equally disturbing peer. The band is the fickle plaything of notorious front man Michael Gira (pronounced jeer-AH, despite the fact that I and everyone else I know who gives a shit continues to regularly and carelessly mispronounce GEAR-ah. Get it right or don't, just fall in line.) After some time of listening to this intensely haunted voice I always wondered what my physical impressions of the man would be when i finally saw him. (I have unfortunately never seen his alternate antithesis project The Angels of Light) To say the least, he is a bit scary. I enjoyed watching him aggressively direct the excellent band he has assembled for this tour. (The drums and bass in particular sounded fucking awesome) That is, he occasionally threw his commanding fingers at all of them except the only original member, guitarist Norman Westberg, who must know the drill pretty fucking well by now, I'm sure. Or maybe he has just known Gira long enough to be spared some of his mania. In any event, they shook my bowels and stirred my soul and I was pleasantly surprised at the patience of the audience, especially during Gira's occasional creepy, solo voicings.

Incidentally, here is a freaky image of the great Hank Williams, which hangs somewhere in my room. I put it together the night after the show. Do you see it too?

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