Colin Stetson and Swans

Colin Stetson was a great way to kick off the festival. From the opening notes of his first song I knew this was going to be something special. Stetson alternated between his big and small saxophones, playing material mostly off his new album. The highlight of the set had to be when he told the audience the story of a whale whose communication signals are a few pitches too high so he wanders the Atlantic ocean all alone waiting for someone to answer his calls. Then he played the song and you could hear the hopelessness in those cries. Shit like that’s gonna make a guy cry.

And another thing, how can Colin Stetson make all of those noises with just one instrument? He’s like a beat-boxer or something. I liked the T-rex-like Dinosaur calls of his second to last song. But all the while he was doing stuff like that he was able to maintain his intricate melodies. Obviously this guy is intimately involved with his instruments and knows how to constantly push things to the edge of what’s possible with them.

Once that was done I headed over to Swans. Huge line-up waiting for me there. I really wanted to get in so I waited for close to two hours. Damn, these guys are old! I guess they started back in 1982 though. This show was an onslaught of noise and intensity. I haven’t really seen many shows like this, where every song ends in a crescendo of noise.

Surprisingly, Swans didn’t play much off their new album. At least not once I got in. But it turns out that all the music they’ve been making up to that album sounds very similar to it. Die hard fans of the band would’ve had their minds blown I’m sure. It was good, but I’d need to be more of a fan before I’d go again.

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