The Glowing Man
[Young God; 2016]
Swan’s front-man Michael Gira understands what many other artists realize too late – in order to continue, you must constantly evolve. Over the past three decades, Gira has reinvented his vision multiple times. Once a pioneering band of the abrasive, no-wave movement, Swans would go on to soften their blows with a more melodic approach in the mid-80s, and then move to a somber, almost conventional stint on MCA Records. Between 1983 and 1996, Swans went through four different line-up changes, and currently, the band’s alumni features a list of 18 musicians. After a 14 year hiatus between 1996 and 2010, Gira emerged with his fifth line-up, returning with a sound more ambitious and potent than anything explored by the band before.
Technological innovations over the past 10 years have changed the entire concert experience. There was a time where filming or tape recording a concert were frowned upon. In fact, there was an entire episode of What’s Happening? in the mid-70s that focused on the perils of bootlegging concerts (featuring The Doobie Brothers!). But in today’s concert setting, people pull out their phones to live tweet, take pictures, and film with nary a glance from security or venue staff. I myself get annoyed by the iPhone Army present at most shows, many patrons spending more time checking their Facebook status update about seeing the band than actually watching them. I don’t mind patrons taking a moment to snap a picture, but when it turns into a photo shoot, I have a problem.
Several years ago I saw Broken Social Scene at SXSW and before even playing a song, front man Kevin Drew gave a speech along the lines of “Instead of trying to capture this concert through videos and photos, let’s just enjoy the moment and let our memories encapsulate it.” This was a big moment for me since I’d spent the past year filming a lot of shows for this blog (one look at my YouTube page and you’ll see there’s been a major falloff in video posts since that show). Up-and-coming British post-punk band Savages have taken it a step further, requiring all patrons to turn off their phones or the band won’t play.