Swervedriver | Music Hall of Williamsburg | 6.13.2008

Busy night last night. After Popfest at Cakeshop and Amazing Baby at Mercury Lounge, I hopped in a cab back to the WB to catch Swervedriver (again) at Music Hall of Williamsburg. I watched most of the show from the upstairs balcony where I dared to
take out my earplugs. MHoW may be the
best-sounding club in the city. Setlist was slightly different than at
, we also got "I am Superman" and "Girl on a Motorbike." Also a different vibe for sure than at Bowery Ballroom — somewhat younger, definitely more girls in attendance. And it's possible Swervedriver were even better. "Duel," "The Birds," and "For Seeking Heat" all sounded spectacular and the band was definitely feeding off the way-into-it crowd's energy. Drummer Jez, in particular, seemed to be having the time of his life. They burned up the stage — I hope this momentum leads to some new music.

SETLIST: sciflyer | juggernaut rides | sandblasted | the birds|  duel | girl on a
motorbike | these times | 99th dream | the hitcher | she's beside herself |
i am superman | never lose that feeling | behind the scenes | son of
mustang ford | for seeking heat | rave down

BV posted some great shots. Swervedriver plays Toronto tonight and Chicago tomorrow. And that's it, folks. For now.

Swervedriver + Dirty on Purpose | Bowery Ballroom | 6.11.2008

.Swerved_bowery There were not a lot of girls at Bowery Ballroom last night. It shouldn't have been that surprising to me. Swervedriver have always been a Dudes Band. But I hadn't been to such a dude-heavy show in a long time. And, as you often get with shows by veteran band, you could tell a lot of the dudes hadn't been to a show in a long time. I texted my friend Don before they started: "There are like 10 girls here. Five are bartenders, the rest are here against their will." I was excited to see Swervedriver's first NYC show in ten years, but all this, um, dudeness was freaking me out. A bit. At one point I thought it might be funny to take pictures of all the women at the show and ask them what they got out of the deal for agreeing to come to the show. Might be funny for the blog, right? The ladies perspective.

But then Swervedriver came out and just killed it. Like the last ten years never happened. Jaw-droppingly, why-aren't-you-still-a-band-and-making-records good. And maybe it's just the decade that's passed, but they almost seemed better than I remembered. Swervedriver's sound hasn't dated I don't think — it's the sound of vapor trails off hot desert pavement, or after-burners on a spaceship. On songs like the slow-burn "Duress" it felt like gravity lost its grip on us just a little bit. The band was clearly into it as much as the crowd. Adam Franklin is a cool dude, looking more like Geoffrey Wright having long-since shaved off his signature dreads, and didn't say more than ten word to the crowd the whole show but he had a smile on his face every time he did. Dudes win.

MP3: Swervedriver- Duress 

Swervedriver play tonight at Music Hall of Williamsburg. It's sold out but if it's anything like last night's show, there will likely be people selling tickets outside. And probably a few available at the door. If you were on the fence about seeing them, I can say without hesitation… go.

Dop_bowery Dirty on Purpose were about as close to perfect an opening band as you could find. There's definitely a throughline from Swervedriver to DoP's effect-laden sound, especially in guitarist George Wilson's whammy-bar, guitar-manhandling style — which was in full effect on the set-closing instrumental "Monument." No matter how similar their styles were, a few impatient types in the crowd couldn't help themselves and shouted 'SWERVEDRIVER!" throughout the set, to which guitarist Joe Jurewicz responded. "Swervedriver are on next. Maybe you want to wait to wait downstairs in the bar till they're on."

Blowin’ Cool

Of all the bands from the original '90s shoegaze scene, Swervedriver were probably the best. Overall. They never made a bad album, never wasted a million dollars and 15 years testing out the sound of tube amps while not making music, and got out of the game before making an "back to basics" record of substandard Zepplin-esque blues rock. And their live shows smoked. Even while being kicked around by record labels (Creation in the UK; A&M in America) and the UK music press, Swervedriver remained cool.

Having never quite got their due in the '90s, it's heartening to see the excitement around the Swervedriver  reunion, including selling out two nights in NYC. I haven't seen them play since July 1997 at Tramps, when the band was over for whatever they were calling the New Music Seminar that year. Reviews of the reunion shows have been glowing, and as their four albums all hold up I can only imagine this is going to be a triumphant return.

Unfortunately almost all of Swervedriver's releases are out of print, except for a well-chosen but expensive compilation, Juggernaut Rides. f you're going to any of the remaining shows but aren't all that familiar with the band (yes, it seems unlikely) or if you want to know what you'll be missing, here's a track from each of the four albums.

MP3: Swervedriver – Rave Down

MP3: Swervedriver – Duel

MP3: Download Swervedriver_Birds

MP3: Swervedriver – 99th Dream

If you want to hear more, there are live versions of every song from every album available as free downloads on Swervedriver's website.

You shouldn't ignore the opening bands either. At both shows are Glasgow's Terra Diablo, who are actually managed by Swervedriver drummer, Jez. Musically similar, but vocally are a little too emo for my liking. Tonight at Bowery Ballroom are also Dirty on Purpose who have been lauded many times on this blog and their new RCRD LBL EP is among the best things they've ever done; Thursday's show at Music Hall of Williamsburg has Longwave on the bill, who I'm sure can swap label horror stories with Swervedriver. The new songs posted on their MySpace sound great.

Setting Suns Tonight; Sinking Suns Tomorrow

If you’re like me you’re running around like a crazy person trying to get ready for the holidays (or the ability to take time off for them) but if you don’t already have plans tonight you might do well to swing by the Mercury Lounge to catch the Setting Suns. I’m a little surprised this isn’t getting more attention than it is. The Setting Suns are Adam Franklin, onetime singer of shoegaze titans Swervedriver, and Interpol drummer Sam Fogarino. Apparently the two met last via Big Takeover editor Jack Rabid, hit it off, and decided to work together on some music.

The first fruits of that are now available in the form of a self-titled EP that’s available via iTunes. I’m not sure how much of the songwriting is shared, but The Setting Suns are definitely more dreamy and epic-sounding than Franklin’s recent, underheard solo album, Bolts of Melody, though I’d have to imagine the songs  (including a really nice cover of the somewhat obscure Kinks’ gem "The Way Love Used to Be" [from the Percy soundtrack!]) will rock a bit more in a live setting. There’s definitely less drone than Franklin fans may be used to.

I ran into Adam last week at the drunken Cheeseburger show at Knitting Factory and tried to quiz him about tonight’s show. He joked that they were still trying to write songs so that they’d have a full set tonight. Maybe we’ll find out what this "big announcement" is that is hinted at on the Setting Suns MySpace page. The announcement might be that they’re changing their name to The Sinking Suns — apparently there’s some sort of claim to the name already. I think I like Sinking Suns better anyway.

Tonight’s Mercury Lounge show is the band’s live debut and only show billed as The Setting Suns. Filling out the line-up tonight will be The Album Leaf’s Jimmy Lavalle on keyboards, bassist Josh Stoddard (who also plays bass in Franklin’s solo band as well as his own group The Still Out), plus second keyboardist Blasco who’s played with both Interpol and Secret Machines on the road.

Actually this is a great bill all around tonight. School of Seven Bells are a supergroup of sorts in their own right, featuring ex-Secret Machine man Benjamin Curtis, plus Alejandra and Claudia Deheza who were in the great, short-lived On! Air! Library! It’s glitchier than I was expecting but I really like the songs on their Myspace page. I don’t know much about Mercova apart from Calla’s Peter Gannon is apart of it.


In other Adam Franklin news, as you may have heard, Swervedriver are getting back together for at least a tour next year. Which is pretty exciting to me as they were one of the great unsung bands of the ’90s, and 1995’s Ejector Seat Reservation is a lost classic. Certainly anyone who is excited about MBV’s supposed re-emergence (we’ll see) should pay attention to this. I don’t think Swervedriver have played NYC since CMJ ’96 when they played with the Poster Children at Tramps. My ears might still be ringing from that one.