Went to see a Michael Gira solo show in Copenhagen a couple of weeks ago.
I have seen both Swans and Gira solo more times than I can remember right now. But as I’m sitting here mixing and tweaking my own songs, and inevitably hitting those periods where the music seems to go nowhere and I feel out of touch with it, I just have to look to my right (I have a framed Swans poster on my wall, you see) and remind myself how music is able to take you somewhere completely different and shake you through, if you let it.
I have a ticket stub from a Swans concert that took place in 1997 in Copenhagen on their farewell tour; I would have just turned seventeen judging from the date, and I remember knowing I had to see this band, as it supposedly was my last chance of ever doing so. A couple of years earlier I had picked up a copy of “Greed”, knowing Swans was a name I had to check out, since I was a young introvert with an attitude and a taste for the “alternative” – I was in no way ready for it at the time; but I remember it provoked me intensely. And I played it every once in a while, like there was some secret to it I hadn’t been let it on. Of course there was no secret; it was all about reaching a state of mind where you decide to let go of all preconceived notions of what music is, and how it should be executed. And at the Swans concert in 1997 that way of thinking became clear to me. I went to the show alone as I didn’t know anybody who wanted to come, and I used my meagre savings on a beer, a joint and a t-shirt and felt that was an OK preparation for whatever was about to hit me. Even though the band was breaking up, there was no sentimentality to it. As I recall Michael Gira just stated that since they had just released a new album (That would be “Soundtracks for the blind”) their set was going to focus on that material, and that was it.
That evening I got home a little bit older, a little bit wiser, a lot more confused, but most importantly, determined to never let myself or my music restrict to certain ideals or ideas about genres and what was supposedly “permitted” in music. I was able to enjoy and discover both “Greed” and the rest of the bands back catalogue from that moment on.
And when Swans reunited some years ago, I was once again impressed and struck by the lack of sentimentality with which Michael Gira seemed to move forward instead of giving people a “Greatest Hits” set.
The framed poster is actually signed by Michael Gira; it says “To Morton! – live!”.
Good advice. That I do.
Now back to the music…