I had wanted to see Swans live ever since I had read about their notoriously loud shows. The show began with a deafening fifteen-minute drone, during which band members entered the stage one-by-one, adding their instrument. The addition of the steel lap guitar was dangerously loud, and was only the third instrument of six, to start playing. It turned the room into a molasses thick tank of noise. And then brand new opener ‘Frankie M’ entered over the top, loud enough that it is perfectly audible over the continuing drone, forming a molasses-thick tank of noise. It was at such a volume that it could be heard over the top while the drone continued all night, rattling the room around it.
Throughout the set, tracks were altered, whether lyrics (at least I can’t recall ‘The Apostate’ featuring the repeated scream of “get out of my cunt!”), ditching twenty-minutes of closing epic ‘Bring the Sun’, in favour of twenty-minutes of new material ‘Black Hole Man’. It takes a very special band to open with almost forty-minutes of unfamiliar material before a recognisable song is played and for the audience to be so mesmerized not to care. Swans are all about experience which as little physical aid, beyond their sound, as possible.
There were only two songs from their latest album To Be Kind. That said, there were only six songs over the course of the two-and-a-half hour set. It was as though the tour didn’t follow the release of the latest album, but of the upcoming releases, as fans around the world witness the creation process from within – the furious, ingenious brain-stream of Michael Gira.
I bought myself a vinyl copy of To Be Kind (although I already had one) so that Michael Gira could sign it. Unfortunately, the album that I didn’t have (The Seer) was impossible to sign, due to its black cover. I was embarrassed when I got to the surprisingly soft spoken Gira, as I couldn’t get the shrink-wrap off of it (“Don’t you have a key?” – Michael) and decided to go to the back of the queue. I should stop biting my nails.
I remember this as the day that Dad finally stopped saying that concerts were louder during his youth, considering just how far away he walked from the venue and could still hear Swans.