Swans Report Card

NXNE ‘14 Report Card: Swans @ Yonge-Dundas Square

Friday, June 20. Swans gyrated and ground Yonge-Dundas Square into a pulp.

- Jun 21, 2014

Background/Composition: This proto-industrial group from New York City set the bar for an incredible amount of bands that followed, including Neurosis and Godflesh. Principal songwriter, Michael Gira, reformed the group in 2010 to record their first album in 14 years. They’ve since been set on a path of worldwide wanton destruction.

Embracing the Event: A+

From the moment Thor Harris (who looks like a cleaner-cut version of Monsieur Merde from Holy Motors) set foot on stage, it was clear that the band knew exactly why they were there: to be Swans. Harris took his place amongst the bells, and as each member came out one-by-one, they added to the infernal roar that he kicked off.

I thought they might cringe at being booked at such a corporate space, when in fact they recognized their role there was to disturb that peace, to shake the mortar from those buildings covered in billboards. They did so capably, making a racket that sounded like it was born from the bowels of Branca and Chatham.

Showmanship: A+

I’ve seen Swans perform in Toronto before, and they never played it up as much as they did last night. Gira gyrated his hips and mimed blowjobs, which seemed especially meant for the cameras, as the concert was being broadcast on the brand new Samsung somethingorother that hung over Yonge-Dundas Square.

Physicality: A

From Gira’s dance moves, to the way the 60 year old jumped into every guitar strum at the climax of the group’s set, Swans played an incredibly physical set, start to finish. Much of the band’s strength comes through repetition, which puts an added amount of pressure on bassist Chris Pravdica and drummer Phil Puleo to hold down the rhythm. By the end, Puleo still had enough in his reserves to take on a tremendous drum solo, which was welcome, but also unexpected given how much their set had already demanded of him.

Confused Onlookers: A+

It was hard to get a real sense of numbers, but needless to say, the square was packed. Once Swans took off, and Gira was barking phrases like “g-g-g-get FUCKED,” you could see people who hadn’t realized what they had gotten themselves into starting to trickle out.


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