Unknown Pleasures: Swann Danger, Guitar vs. Gravity, 2:Frail @ Hemlock Tavern, 12/19/09

It was my 115th and probably final show of the year. After a year where I’ve been to shows big and small and traveled all over the U.S. to see them, I was very happy to end it with local bands in a locals only kind of venue.

However, knowing that it will probably be 3 weeks until my next show had put me in a bit of a funk as I drove to this final show. So I chose Ian Curtis to soothe me as I made the trek to one of my all time favorite albums, Unknown Pleasures.

The decor at the Hemlock may be ironic, but it reminds me that I will soon be back in Texas, where many places look like this and mean it. I was there early, so by the time it was time to head back into the venue portion of the bar, making it through the plastic car wash panels while balancing a drink in my hand proved to be more challenging than it should be.

As 2:Frail were about to begin their set, my ears perked up as I heard the intro riff to ‘Mountain Song’ closely followed by ‘Piggy’ I think….nice! The band’s industrial shoegaze sound is created by a guitarist and bassist (who had a very trippy looking bass) with shared vocal duties, backed up by a drum machine. Projections featuring somewhat creepy clips from old movies I should probably know are spliced together and perfectly choreographed to the music- kudos for the effort there. The ambiance is further complemented by the occasional blast of strobelights, a la APTBS. The music is dreamy with a hard edge, something that this city needs more of. I can see them playing shows with We.Got.This.Far in the future. I think they could benefit from a live drummer. Their final song was introduced as a Killer’s cover– which scared me at first- but then I heard the first few seconds and realized it was Shadowplay, I laughed at the humor in that and was very excited. Later on, I would get back into my car and that very song was cued up on the album. I love these bizarre coincidences.

As the next band, Guitar vs. Gravity began, I saw a familiar looking person out of the corner of my eye who I think was the vocalist for Kowloon Walled City, who was the last band I saw play at this venue. Another interesting coincidence. This band has a post-punk bent, and reminded me of early Weezer, probably because the vocalist had a Rivers Cuomo thing going on. He had a plastic shopping bag that he kept pulling various random books, cassettes, and records out of, gifting them to people in the audience for one reason or another…..it was quite humorous but I felt a little like there was a big inside joke going on that I didn’t fully understand.

Swann Danger is a female fronted three piece that reminded me of Siouxsie and the Banshees mixed with a little Hole. The vocalist admitted she was a little tipsy after a couple drinks, but it didn’t show. I thought they were fun; I could tell she is a big personality. The drummer appeared to be drinking straight from a bottle of wine. ‘Tis the season!

Afterward I hung out in the bar for a little while, which I am absolutely terrible at because I keep thinking about how drunk everyone is (duh- it’s a BAR!) and can’t hear what anyone is saying and it makes me really HATE being single. But I made it to last call (probably the first time I’ve done that in two years!) but was glad to get to the safety of my car where Ian Curtis serenaded me all the way home.

“To the centre of the city where all roads meet, waiting for you
To the depths of the ocean where all hopes sank, searching for you
Moving through the silence without motion, waiting for you
In a room with a window in the corner I found truth”

~’Shadowplay’, Joy Division

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Kowloon Walled City, Sod Hauler, Dark Castle @ Hemlock, 3/21/09

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