Devendra Banhart and Swans at Music Hall of Williamsburg
Swans’ front man Michael Gira always enjoyed being different and making music that sounded like nothing else on the world. With Thursday night’s sold-out show at Music Hall of Williamsburg – the second of two in a row – he proved once again his innovative spirit, soaked in violent noise and raw passion. The two shows – actually rescheduled from the end of October, due to Hurricane Sandy – appeared again in the wake of a natural disaster – this time a historical blizzard expected on the northeast coast during the weekend.
While for their show on February 6th Swans picked Marissa Nadler to perform ahead of them, the second night we had the pleasure to hear Venezuelan-American singer-songwriter Devendra Banhart. His 30 minutes long set was just a brief prelude, a fairytale lullaby to distract us from what would happen later.
Around 10pm on the lightly dimmed stage the audience applauded Swans. Michael Gira’s hypnotic voice pierced the room with the words “To be kind … to be new … to be lost … in the sound of this room …” Right after that “the big sound” he promised us in the interview he gave for The Upcoming hit us even harder than expected. Swans’ show was extremely loud – the level of noise was so high that most of the people had ear plugs or hands on their ears – in fact, on the second level of the venue it was almost unendurable.
Swans’ setlist included already known tracks such as Mother of Earth/Screen Shot, Coward, She loves us and The Seer, but it mainly consisted mainly of brand new material the band developed in front of the audience. Gira, also a conductor of the show, giving signs and whispering direction to his band members explained: “We’re in this mode when we start with really basic material and play it in front of an audience and let it develop – that way it has a sense of urgency about it and grows as a band. Rather than me writing a completely finished song and having a band at add their parts, it becomes kind of a group effort. It’s a very ‘fail or succeed’ situation in front of an audience and it works generally.” Parts of these performances will later end up in the band’s new album.
Even though violent, very minimalistic and not for the weak of heart and hearing Swans’ show proved that even in an age when we think that everything is invented, experimental music is still alive and new things can still be created.
Photos: Lauren Naefe
Read the full interview with Michael Gira before the show here.
Watch the official video of Swans performing live No Words No Thoughts here: