I Saw Swans and it Made Me Hate People


By Nick Gazin


I'd shown up to the Music Hall of Williamsburg two hours after they'd started letting people in, but for some reason, there was still a line. I guess that all the other old men had decided to show up late like I had in order to beat the rush. A lady asked me if her press pass from a French magazine would get her in and I said I doubted it. The guy in front of me turned back and exclaimed to me, "Devendra Banhart only played for a half hour! A HALF HOUR!" I didn't respond, but it was clearly bothering him because he said it again to me a few minutes later. It was like being in line at the post office when some exasperated guy keeps exclaiming, "Can you believe this!?" because the line moves slowly. I don't know Devendra Banhart's music, but I know he used to have a big beard and dated Natalie Portman, who is my generation's Winona Ryder, so that's cool.

Once inside, I wandered around and tried to find things to photograph but didn't find much. Despite the show being full of people, there was a lack of energy. Everyone was over 30 and wearing black. I checked out the merch table and was disappointed. I got in line to buy a drink because I didn't know what else to do. Once I got close to the bar, the guy in front of me bought me a beer and said that I looked like I knew what was up. He said his name was Willis and he ran a festival called Brain Cave. Then I photographed a few people.

Swans took the stage and people cheered and then they stood very still. Swans played something droney and repetitive as the audience did their best to stand completely still. Michael Gira, the main Swan, put his hands up and close his eyes while he was singing. I think maybe he was trying to imitate a swan. Gary Numan puts his arms out like a plane when he performs because he loves flying. I found myself going into my own mind since the band wasn't interesting to look at and the audience was even less so. 

I found myself wondering why this band was playing in a venue like Music Hall of Williamsburg. It felt more like a recital than a rock concert and it would have been nice to sit down. I also wondered how a band that made such noisy music could sell out the Music Hall of Williamsburg. I know that they're one of New York's oldest bands that still performs, but I was still surprised. I have no idea why anybody likes anything and am always surprised by what is and isn't popular. Not long after starting, I saw two grey-haired men leave the spot where they were standing, probably because of the volume. It was so loud that I could feel my eyeballs vibrating in their sockets. 

There were a couple of younger guys really grooving on the music and soulfully headbanging. Michael Gira had laminated his lyric sheets and kept them attached to a music stand with bulldog clips. I thought this was kinda corny. I found myself getting annoyed and left after watching Swans play for an hour. 

I guess that to me, the music that Swans makes is best appreciated in isolation. It's music that I relate to most when I am sick of other people, and being in a room of people while their music plays doesn't make me like those people. Some music only makes sense when you experience it live with other people and some only makes sense alone. Swans make sense when I'm alone, but not when I'm with other people. Here are some photos I took of the show.


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