One song into Saturday night's set at the Oriental Theater and Michael Gira told the crowd, "Okay, shut up. Shut the fuck up. Time to shut up." He'd opened with brooding and droning "Jim" from Swans' latest effort, 2010's My Father Will Guide Me Up A Rope To The Sky, and while the people near the stage looked focused, there was talking in the back of the venue. A few more songs into his brilliant and intense hour-long set, which included Swans, Angels of Light and solo material, Gira got a bit fired up again at the crowd.
He played a few bars of "Blind," stopped and said, "I can't do this song. Shut the motherfuck up or go in the other room. Hey, what the fuck are you? Raised in the fucking barn, you animal? Shut the motherfucking fuck up. I can't even hear myself. If you came here for the other band go in the other room for now. Unbelievable. Why don't you look at Pitchfork or something?"
That seemed to work, and the crowd hushed, which was a good thing since Gira's lyrics and vocals demand attention. In the solo setting, Gira's lyrics become much more prominent. That's all you really to focus on versus when he's performing with Swans or Angels of Light, his project with Akron/Family. Lines like "Well it's hard to get air when your neck is a fist" or "As your body drifts by and your lungs fill with mud," just seems to have stand out more when it's just Gira and an acoustic guitar.
After "My Birth," Gira said Swans are finishing their new album, which he said will be released as a two-CD set and as triple LP. Gira also added that Al Sparhawk and Mimi Parker from Low and the Akron/Family are on the album. After playing the new song "Song for a Warrior," Gira thanked the people who traveled long distances to see the show. "That means a lot to me," he said.
While Gira delivered a heavy set, Wovenhand brought a completely different kind of intensity. Fronted by David Eugene Edwards, former leader of 16 Horsepower and one of the most powerful frontmen in the state, Wovenhand opened a fierce set with "The Beautiful Axe." Once a trio with bassist Pascal Humbert and drummer Ordy Garrison, Wovenhand has changed a bit with the addition of bassist Gregory Garcia Jr., keyboardist Jeff Linsenmaier and Git Some guitarist Chuck French. Sure, the band delivered some mighty sets a trio, but the keys and extra guitar just make things that much heavier.
With Garrison pounding the toms with propulsive Native American-inspired beats on songs like "The Beautiful Axe" and "Winter Shaker" and the keys and both guitars churning out drones, the whole experience got damn near trance-inducing at times. Even the enigmatic Edwards himself seemed to go into something of a trance at points with eyes closed and hands waving.
Drawing material from the last few albums, Ten Stones, Consider the Birds and The Threshingfloor, Wovenhand's hour and fifteen-minute set was heav from start to finish, even with back-to-back slower cuts such as "The Speaking Hands" and "Sinking Hands" thrown in. Closing out the night with the fervent "Kicking Bird," the vibe was damn near overwhelming.
Personal Bias: Wovenhand is one of the most intense live acts in the state.
Random Notes: There was a girl with green hair who held up her shoes a few times between songs of Gira's set.
By the Way: Openers Howling Hex, which included Royal Trux's Neil Hagerty, played an intriguing half-hour set.
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