Jenny Hval - I have enjoyed this Norwegian singer-songwriter once before and was happy to see her get an opening gig slot on the current Swans tour. She is a good fit, although the sound is more sparse, it connects with its creative style and chilling feel. She has some of the more creative vocal moves which manage to feel poppy, but in an extremely off-kilter way--sort of a pop reinvention. She has a guitar/bassist who either jabs with post punk bursts or lays down a throbbing rhythm depending on his choice of weapon. The percussionist practices more restraint than power and adds some electronics to what Jenny Hval lays down deep in the mix. I do love my Scandinavian music and this worked perfectly for me, and pleased much of the crowd, especially as it set the table with a moody appetizer and did not just blast away at our eardrums. There was plenty of time for that later.
Swans - It has been pretty much a crap week for me, so I can't think of a better way to relieve those feelings by getting lost in 125 minutes of live Swans. Time takes on new meaning as few bands seem to move in Swans-time. Often I will clock watch, thinking someone's set will end soon after 20, 25 minutes (even if they are decent). But with the Swans, whether the song is 10, 20, or 35 minutes, I never get tired of listening and allow myself to be absorbed into their fascinating drones and power. The guitars all have different sounds and work together in clever ways as the bass throbs and the two percussionists move around from various instruments at several different intensity levels. Although low intensity Swans still retains a dark and powerful edge to it, the heavier moments have sounds that seemingly come out of nowhere. This is the third time I have seen them in the last 5-6 years and they fill a need every time, as their music cuts deep into the bone and connects in ways that few bands can manage. They even manage some surprises as they opened with a song that they had never played before. And it took 90 minutes before they played a cut 'resembling' something off of their new album. This was a sold-out crowd here tonight that was fully into the music every bit as much as I was, which furthered the powerful atmosphere that everyone should experience at least once. But just try getting a ticket from the legions of people that experience this every time the Swans come to town.
Quote of the Night: "Upon the gleaming water two swans that swim, And every place shall be my native home." A lyric from the Incredible String Band's 'Maya' which randomly popped up in the 20 minutes I had my IPOD on, while waiting for the Swans' set.