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Swans @ Bowery Ballroom, 10/10/2012
No alarm, no text message notification, no construction site noise, no rowdy kids outside my window. Something far more sinister jarred me awake at 6AM on Wednesday... the thundering jackhammer of a migraine beating down on my head. My world was collapsing. After several hurried trips to the bathroom to vomit profusely, I shut all of the shades and tried to soundproof my room. Mental note: invest in a silent coffin.
Though my symptoms had mostly subsided by early that afternoon, I was still in positively no shape to see one of my favorite bands live later that night at Bowery Ballroom (10/10), the pounding, cro-magnon gods of no-wave known as Swans. I'm a man of my word though, so there I was on Delancey St. at the moment doors opened. Not to sound anything but blessed, but sometimes it's a good thing to force yourself out.
Easing into my night were the simple, the gypsy-laden carnival sounds of A Hawk & A Hacksaw who were light and fun, peppered with a shirtless dance from masked men. Accordian, dulcimer and electric violin were the main weapons of choice for the duo, who also employed an odd cross-breed between a violin and a horn that seemed to work off of contact mics and a single broken violin string. Regardless of instrumentation, A Hawk & a Hacksaw was far less brooding than Swans on their lightest day, but still fascinating and worth a watch. I felt the need to wear castanets.
Clad in black, Michael Gira just oozes intensity. His square jaw seemingly comes off the hinges for his anguished screams and he heaves his thrashing body, leaving trails of white hair in streaks behind him. Backed by a crew of five including a percussionist, drummer, guitar, bass and lap steel, Gira proceeded to hammer his way through new material at Bowery Ballroom last night. If there is one thing that Swans know that many others probably should, it is the value of a good crescendo. Swans take the lightest moments and build upon them gently, eventually crashing down in a full on primitive sledgehammer assault. Swans are a singular breed of brutality.
In the midst of a positively amazing set from Gira & company, I came to and remembered the hours that lead up to the Swans show... the migraine, the doubling over and subsequent blackout and isolation from society. The aches and pain were gone. I may have figured out a new cure for recovery... smash away the pain.
Pictures and the setlist from Bowery Ballroom are below. If you missed it last night, Swans play a pair of NYC dates at the end of October.
A Hawk & A Hacksaw
SWANS Setlist 10/10/12
To Be Kind
She Loves Us