by Caroline Harrison
The Northside Festival kicked off last night (June 14) with a number of performances across north Brooklyn, including Swans and Chelsea Wolfe at the Warsaw. Wolfe played her haunting, mellow set better suited to a quieter, smaller venue, but it provided a pleasant contrast for the aural onslaught of Swans.
"Fun" is not a word you usually hear used to describe the infamous New York band Swans. They formed in the early 80s when much of New York City -- and famously Alphabet City, where they practiced -- was a horrifying shit-hole. Their early material embodies the stress, the pain, the aggression, the terror of living in the city at that time. They play painfully loud live shows. Enigmatic front man Michael Gira is known for throwing fits on stage. The first time I saw them play, he stopped a performance mid-song to yell at multi-instrumentalist Thor Harris.
But during last night's performance, the band was visibly enjoying themselves.
I saw band members actually smile at one another. Craggy pedal steel player Christoph Hahn pulled faces at Thor. Michael Gira cracked jokes. When taking their bows, Gira even called Thor Harris "the hairiest nipples in the west." (... Accurate)
Yet their music was still as punishing as ever. Those foolish enough not to bring earplugs most certainly regret it today. Early in the set Gira sneered through the menacing "Coward." The band hammered out a fifty-minute version of "the Seer," the title track off their last album.
Tonight Torche, KEN mode, Lo-Pan, and Inter Arma play the Invisible Oranges showcase at 285 Kent. Greg Ginn's Black Flag plays Warsaw with The Men, among others (not to be confused with FLAG, even though you probably wish you could forget both bands ever "reformed") . Check out our guide to this year's Northside Festival for other awesome stuff that's happening, including the free McCarren Park shows.
More photos from Warsaw are below...