Swans are a band. I'm somewhat at a loss to describe them in more detail; Allmusic has a lot of words about them at this link here. I'm just sitting here opening and closing my mouth like a fish.
I can't say I wasn't warned. The opening act, Sir Richard Bishop, graciously accepted some applause during his set and muttered, "Swans are gonna **** your faces off." And they did.
Swans' set started out loud. It got difficult to talk over the looped synthesizer, but we didn't see anybody on stage so we weren't sure they were actually playing yet. A guy stepped out and started hammering repetitively on some hanging bells, adding to the noise. And another guy. And another - six total. It was arrhythmic, throbbing, and glorious. It droned.
Drone music is usually soft, like late afternoon in a meadow, or like bread that's fallen into dishwater. Not like this. Swans are to drone music as the Navy's active sonar is to whale speech. Actually that's a very good analogy.
Confetti fluttered down from the cieling of the Ballroom. It had probably been there since New Year's Day, if not longer. Every square inch of my clothing vibrated, including the soles of my shoes. I wouldn't have been surprised to look down and see an outline of dead skin cells on the floor around me. I felt physically lifted up like a puppet on strings. With every follicle on high alert, the sensory overload wiped out all my thoughts and pushed my consciousness into my body. My beer went warm.
God help the poor bastard who was trying to put on a show in the Beachland Tavern in the same building. (It was the Schwartz Brothers. Glen Schwartz was one of the early guitarists for the James Gang, and he's kind of a savant. I figure he either thought the noise was just in his head, or else he went ballistic and preached hellfire from the mic all night.)
Go see Swans. Bring earplugs.