The gods walk among us

Halloween gigs, spiritual ascension with Swans, the sixth annual A Varning From Montreal festival and more righteous heaviosity this week…

If you weren’t at the Swans show last Friday at la Tulipe, you better be kicking the dirt because, as predicted, it was easily the show of the year. Quite simply, Swans are untouchable live and should be considered this generation’s greatest band.

As per usual, the heat in the gorgeous venue was turned up to a sweltering level as decibels seared the ears and low-end frequencies pummelled the lower abdomen. True, Swans are better felt than heard; this was far louder than their cranium-crushing show at le National a little over a year ago.

Head Swan Michael Gira proved once again that he is indeed a giant walking among us puny humans as he conducted the five-piece behind him with nods and swift twists of his guitar neck. Three songs from The Seer — “Avatar,” the title track and “The Apostate” — were almost rendered unrecognizable with twists and turns, amped up dynamics and emotional release hitting like a tsunami.

Michael Gira, photo by Cindy Lopez

If the recorded versions raised the hair on the back of your neck, their current forms easily burst through ceilings with added pummelling and unabashed urgency. A completely revamped version of an old classic — “Coward” from Holy Money — hit orchestral heights, proving that after 30 years, the band is better than ever. Gira also stuffed the two-and-a-half-hour set-list with four unrecorded songs that perfectly merged the Swans of yesteryear with the undeniable force it is today.

In short, Swans make all of your favourite bands look weak and puny in comparison and proved that this trip went well beyond being just another rock show. They weren’t here to stoop to cheap entertainment or prove their relevance — they were here for your soul.

After being blasted with the uncompromising and brutally honest sound of Gira and co., I made the grave mistake of running down to Cabaret du Mile End immediately afterwards to catch Sub Pop’s Father John Misty. His album Fear Fun remains in my top three records of 2012 (along with Swans’ The Seer, natch), but after experiencing one of the best shows I’ve seen in the past five years, Father John Misty just came across as a cardboard, bar-rock band. I don’t really want to slam the man too much here, but after witnessing true musical ascension and connecting in a deeply spiritual way, this ex-Fleet Foxer posing with a bottle of Jameson while gyrating to the McGill kids in the front row just came across as downright goofy and boring. Closing his encore with his completely carbon-copy version of Canned Heat’s “On the Road Again” was so embarrassing, I had to hightail it out the door.

Again, I don’t mean to slam the man, and his debut record is a definite good ‘un, but after surrendering to the Swans’ primal power beforehand, his barrelhouse boogie was just too tepid for this changed soul.

Alrighty, here’s the skinny on the week ahead:

Wednesday – Of course, there are a plethora of things to do on All Hallow’s Eve, but a guaranteed barnstormer would be A Cult Halloween at Royal Phoenix. There’ll be a live performance by Goose Hut/Taylor Swifter and DJs Parklife, Amyl Nitrate and Fixyourbitrate, who’ll have you storming the dancefloor.

Another great Halloween gig would be the behemoth Montreal (currently Torontonian) ghoul Corpusse with the witchy sounds of Gambletron, the spooky ooky Other’s People Music, the horrific Star Hunters and the spine-chilling Limbs Wandered Alone. That’s at Bistro Araucaria.

Also tonight, the metal gig of the week: grind legends Napalm Death, Municipal Waste and Exhumed. Having seen Municipal Waste and Napalm the last time they were in town, I can wholeheartedly deem this show to be utterly RAD.

Thursday – My pick of the week would definitely go to the sixth annual A Varning From Montreal festival, which keeps its iron grip on Katacombes through the weekend. Launching the whole shebang this year is Barcelona’s Belgrado, Vancouver’s Spectres, Bellicose Minds, Complications, Crimson Scarlet, Dekoder and Dead Party.

Now that current Cairo resident Sam Shalabi is putting up stakes in Montreal over the next week, he’ll be resurrecting Detention, his improv project with percussionist Alex MacSween, and kicking out the jams at la Elastica with an opening solo set from Alexandre St-Onge.

For some seriously damaged dance tunes, you can check out Femminielli & Noir with Corse and Velvet Glacier at Sala.

FridayVarning’s second night at Katacombes has Japan’s Zyanose, Toronto’s S.H.I.T., Boston’s Aspects of War, NYC’s Zatsuon, Truncheons, Napalm Raid, Vancouver’s Koszmar, Bludgeoned and Crimes.

For a great night of cold wave, vintage industrial, goth and dark wave, DJs Samantha Planetta and Carnal will let you feel the darkness when they take over the venue side of Casa. Warning: Anyone in yellow jumpsuits or Speedos will not be admitted.

Saturday – The third night of Varning features the final show ever by San Francisco’s Peligro Social with NYC’s Hank Wood and the Hammerheads, Proxy, Sad Boys, Diskonected, ex-Brutal Knights’ Hassler and Bastard 86.

Divan Orange will host the return of the garagey/new wave/punk sounds of Xavier Caféïne with Gazoline.

Monday – Finally, don’t miss the soaring harmonies of Grass Widow with local miscreants Hand Cream and Brave Radar at Il Motore. ■

Current obsession: Swans, The Seer (still)

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