Baby Dee - We begin very quietly with a cello, violin and harp. Vocals join in from the harpist. Cleveland's Baby Dee have begun. The music is modern classical music that open minded people would think no differently about than the chamber music of a string quartet in previous centuries. The vocals are more unique. I thought they sounded like Comus' Roger Wooten crossed with Klaus Nomi, while trying to cover Antony Hegarty (Antony & the Johnsons). Now that I have my requisite bizarre comparison out of the way, I can get to the set. It was a very steady set with the music being clean and clear and very accessible. The vocals ultimately were interesting, although some may not think so, but a Swans crowd is as open minded a crowd as you will find for unique music. I rather like classical music and thought this was a nice way to get ready for something that will be a bit louder and a bit different.
Swans - There is a building ambient drone going on when a percussionist walks on to the stage and starts hammering a few tubular bells. After a building swirl of this, a drummer, bass player, guitarist, keys/noise/guitarist, and Michael Gira (vocals/guitar) join him on stage. It is the famous Swans sound, a pounding steady drone with just a little variance particularly in the bass and lots of overtones and interesting sounds swirling deep in the maelstrom of the guitars. This is an important band and I guess I could consider them, Sonic Youth, Das Damen, and some others as little brothers of the NYC No Wave bands. The No Wave bands were wildly original and often not terribly enduring in career length or listenability. But the next wave did produce lots of challenging music that had enough accessibility to sustain it to a wide fanbase throughout the world. Of course, no one quite hit the heights of Sonic Youth, but the Swans did quite well until Michael Gira felt he needed another direction in 1997. But he is back with new music, US and European tours and he's brought along plenty of ex-Swans in this line-up. They continue on with a steady stream of droning music with a nice feral beat. Gira's vocals are strong and interesting. If you are a Wire fan like me, you may hear sounds similar to the drones in "Pink Flag" or "Mercy". There are certainly not as many pop hooks here, but the songs really resonate. Their power and simple structures are easy to grab onto and the 80% full crowd tonight did just that. The percussionist had extra drums, a gong, and vibes to vary the sound. The keys and noise equipment was subtle and well integrated into the overall sound wall. There really is not much more to say. This band really is not as radical as some may think, but thoughtful, original and powerful. Welcome back, this was excellent.
Quote of the Night: Michael Gira after playing a shorter number... "That's our pop song. Think it'll get me an interview with Pitchfork?"