This is not your mom's no-wave. The seminal New York underground band, Swans, brought their muscular rage back to the stage this fall, playing at the Brooklyn Masonic Temple and the Bowery Ballroom. Michael Gira and company took to their instruments while the viking drummer, Thor, hammered a staccato rhythym for 20 minutes. The assembled musicians looked like a gang of murderers straight out of Blue Velvet, all lean and grey and grizzled, eyeing the crowd with intensity. Michael Gira's inspired fury continues to inspire:
Swans are our favorites. We first dropped our jaw at a Swans show when they performed "Failure" at the Paradise Rock Club in Boston in 1991. The brutality of that statement was pushed further when followed by Jarboe's screeching turn onstage. This time there was no Jarboe, but it was nice of them to resurrect Klaus Kinski to play percussion.
If you have nothing to do for the next fifteen minutes, let this freak baby fly (lovely long intro video below). And then put on a copy of Soundtracks for the Blind. Or put your ear out with a tuning fork. Whichever.
Saturday, October 2, 2010
You can tell by her riveting expression in the promo still for Rufur, that something wicked this way comes. Actress Remy Bennett appeared at the premiere of the short film in which she stars, a convincing black eye painted on her face in sparkly purple shadow. Filmmaker Emilie Richard-Froozan addresses the packed bar energetically, like a Fonda in her kickass vintage fur vest. (Below: Bennett and Froozan dancing to Dirty Fences)
Rufur is preceded by a short film whose deadpan humor increases the expectation that something bad is about to happen. The 8 minute short had its genesis in a dream by the director and mirrors the mind's strange way of weaving narratives out of seemingly disparate elements. As if David Lynch and Robert Altman threw a party, luminous women in ballgowns bare their teeth in laughter to a soundtrack of chattering teenagers, overheard dialogue. The girls are present at the opening and giggle wildly in self-recognition, in amazing imitation of the film. There is a young girl's birthday party, a gift of a rat, a violent rape, murder? (does the caged animal escape?) and bursts of punk rock by Dirty Fences. Throughout, the presence of the wide-eyed Bennett, who says little but conveys the varieties of the film's passion, terror and despair with unforgettable expressions. End scene.
Dirty Fences take the stage and as if the dream is yet ongoing, we are abruptly dancing to a catchy riot of punk music. We shimmy and jump in our wicked heels. And the night is still young. Rufur leaves us wanting more.
Friday, October 1, 2010
Much has been written, and much said about Wagner's Ring Cycle, lauded by many as mankind's greatest single work of art. Whoa. We had the chance to see for ourselves on the night of the second performance of Das Rheingold at the Metropolitan Opera.
We ascended the grand stair like oscar winners, to take our seats just moments before the chandeliers rose and the Rheinmaidens floated up before us, backlit by an ocean of blue to the opening strains. The Ring Cycle is famed for presenting a peculiar challenge. Though its themes are central to our existence, our humanity, the images are epic and fantastical. How to bring such grandness to the theater space? Director Robert Lepage created a set comprised of 24 aluminum planks covered in fiberglass. These run on a hydraulic system to reconfigure into myriad shapes for each scene- forming caves, mountains and finally, Valhalla itself. The mesmerizing contraption, comparable to a modern art sculpture or installation piece, acted as a surface for projections which were not pre-recorded, but triggered live by the music and the singing. The final, sublime image we are left with is the Gods' ascent into Valhalla, as the stone surface transforms into the heavens.
We are out of our depth to describe the god-sized music of Wagner's masterpiece, here so beautifully and intimately conducted by Met Director, James Levine. Or the stunning performances of the all star cast, who brought out the gravity of this cautionary tale, and also its power and beauty.
The next installment, Die Walküre, premieres April 22, 2010.