It’s Friday March 3rd and yours truly is drifting aimlessly for hours in the center of Athens because of the 24hour strike of the means of transportation, longing for legendary Swans’ performance at Gagarin205 on Liosion Street. Deeply intrigued by Psarantonis opening the gig, slightly anxious about the concert flowing well because it was just a few minutes (then) announced as sold-out and thirsty for a transcendental-ritualistic gig that Michal Gira and his gang are famous for, I was outside the venue’s doors and trying to prepare for what’s about to come.
With a slight delay, Psarantonis and his company are on stage and there the “Tiger of Psiloritis” reduces himself on weak roars, because that certainly wasn’t singing, for the few songs he chose to sing. Decibels were extremely low and that was clearly a problem for him performing his set in a sold-out venue. I’d like to comment once more on the lack of respect the Greek audience shows and the constant chit-chats that was going on which overshadowed the Cretan artist. Some people demanded silence from the rest of the attendants, but to be fair, if the artist can’t win it, I’m sure some of his fans won’t to the job, right? Without any trace of preconception and being on a great mood to enjoy Psarantonis, I must admit it was pretty exhausting with his performance deteriorating as more time passed. Best moments were when his orchestra sang some of his songs instead of him. He was an unfortunate pick and a bad start in my opinion.
It was time for the main course. Swans, they’re fame precedes them, the hype was high, 3 Shades of Black’ warnings for excessive sound levels and the handed earplugs at the door concluded all to an extreme experience. The band climbs on stage accompanied by people chanting and we’re off to a good start. Based on the moodiness, repetition and wall of sound with Gira as a conductor controlling every aspect of their growth on stage we’re feeling a hypnotic experience or I would feel one if someone wasn’t constantly moving and pushing me setting me off from the atmosphere that was set. These are obvious disadvantages of a sold-out concert and I want to congratulate the event planners for using correctly the venue’s capacity. I’ve been in full concert with really bad conditions and thankfully Fridays wasn’t that way. The sound was exceptional, although I have to admit I didn’t get the excessive sound level they’re known for. Their opening song(“The Know”) was a specimen of what was about to come with its main element of surprise the violent swings between nostalgic escapes and terrifying noise, an element that was going on throughout their whole set that made its five long songs seem like a lengthy jam. I believe that they could choose a set with more variety in it and that’s something that their discography can easily prove. Moments of major impressiveness were build when songs fell on the backs of the rhythm section with the bass being the spine of the band filling the entire room with low end frequencies and the drummer playing as if he was giving a seminar, clearly influenced by krautrock and King Crimson, he knew when to be simple and when to make the difference in the details. The guitars and the lap steel guitar were flowing through the room and the atmosphere broke with paranoid fillings on keyboards/synths by Paul Wallfisch when doom was declared by Michael Gira’s psalms.
In conclusion I’d like to say as a big Swans fan, Friday’s gig wasn’t what I expected. I didn’t sense this transcendence that they are known for compared to other strong live bands. It maybe had to do with the overcrowding, maybe they had a bad day, maybe I had one… However, this is certainly my opinion and it’s obviously subjective.
Cloud of Unknowing
The Man Who Refused to Be Unhappy
The Glowing Man