Scene Report: Swans live at First Avenue

Swans live, First Avenue, Mpls, MN, 9/20/11
I had nearly forgotten Swans were in town until I noticed the dark cloud lingering above Minneapolis. Yeah right. I bought my ticket like, three months ago and I’ve been waiting with baited breath ever since. I don’t follow Michael Gira as closely as I follow say, Nick Cave, but I’m still a pretty big fan. Heck, most people I talked to as I was excitedly bubbling about the show the days preceding it had never even heard of these guys.

I went out for dinner with my crew and we kept cracking jokes about how we should sit in silence and order our food burnt, just to get in the proper mood. One girl even asked us if we were gonna commit suicide during the show or wait until afterwards. Oh how we laughed.

We get to First Ave in time to catch the last couple songs of the opening act, Sir Richard Bishop. I don’t know anything about him, but he was really good at playing his guitar really fast. I was slightly disappointed that the place wasn’t packed, but I do prefer when there’s room to walk around without getting elbowed in the face. We settled on the stage left side of the balcony and waited patiently with our bombers of Heineken.

The show began with a single drone. The band members took the stage one by one, each adding something to the sonic landscape. It was grating, repetitive, and slow as shit. We had heard that there was a 30 minute song on the setlist, I was pretty sure that this was it. Finally, after about 25 minutes, Michael Gira makes his glorious entrance. He took the role of conductor, with his back to the audience, and led the noise for what felt like forever. I was enjoying it, but I was praying that they’d start playing a song soon. I remember scurrying to the bathroom (I’m totally a one beer/one pee sort of drinker) and continually keeping my eye on the stage lest I miss something ACUTALLY HAPPEN.

I don’t really remember the details of the rest of the show. I totally let the percussive, rhythmic, atonal sounds wash over me. I usually wear earplugs at First Ave shows because they are so damn loud, but I didn’t wanna miss out on a single decibel of this one. Gira’s voice is incredibly powerful, yet still so soothing and comforting. His baritone vocals rang out through the room and hung in the air like a thick fog. Either that, or they actually did turn off the ventilation systems, as was rumored, in an attempt to make the audience as hot and uncomfortable as possible.

What I’ll remember forever is what happened after the show. I was hanging around the merch table, and out of the corner of my eye, I saw a big white cowboy hat go past. I knew it was him and I got totally star struck. I saw him approach the merch table and start signing autographs and stuff. There weren’t a whole lot of people milling about, so I caught his attention and just shook his hand and said thank you. I was happy. But then, my girlfriend started taking a picture with him and I was like, oh damn, I better get in on this. But I got shy. She came bounding back to me like an excited puppy and was like, “Oh my god, he said he’d come talk to me later, but that he wanted to talk to everybody first.”

I was just as excited as she was. We make our way outside for a cigarette, and then he shows up right behind us again. She’s totally in love by this point. It was pretty hilarious actually. But he was really sweet. Way sweeter than I was expecting, judging by his incredibly dark creative output. I don’t remember what we talked about. I was mostly giggling by how thick my friend was laying it on. I think she totally lost him when she put on her sexy voice and said, “I’ve read all your books.” But he was very patient and totally put up with our drunk asses. I even invited him back to my place. I knew he’d say no, but you can’t blame me for trying. He actually seemed like he kinda wanted to come party with some crazy young girls. Or he’s a very good actor. So we said our good byes and went on our way. I really hope he didn’t notice how we were skipping off singing “We just hung out with Michael Gira! We just hung out with Michael Gira!” like a couple of pubescent Justin Bieber fans.

At the end of the day, it was an incredible show. It was definitely the best time I’ve had at a First Ave show ever. Now I just gotta wait for him to take Angels of Light on a tour again.

I'm  Faster Than My Shadow

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