I make my way to the front of the stage at Botanique cause that’s the best way to experience Swans live. The guy to my right is looking at his newly bought 3 Euro earplugs as if to say I think I’ll wait and see if I need these so I do him a solid and lean in and say Oh yeah, you’re gonna need those and he looks at me and realizes I’m probably right so he quickly rips open the plastic bag, so I feel good about saving that dude’s hearing. And then I notice a woman to my left who has her earplugs hanging in her cleavage and I realize this ain’t her first rodeo and I appreciate the professionalism. I realize it’s all about the earplugs so I’m looking around obsessing about ear safety and tinnitus and wondering how many people here tonight will go home with a certain level of hearing loss. (This other guy next to me doesn’t have plugs and ends up covering his ears for the entire show).
So Michael Gira finally makes his way to the stage and I notice to my amazement that he’s not wearing earplugs and this strikes me as rather insane because, well, this is Swans live.
Aja (1977) was my intro to Steely Dan. Musta heard it in the early 80s. It was everywhere back then. Sold like a billion copies. Super-slick jazz-rock. Or something. Never could tell where Steely Dan fit. Which was part of the draw. I went backward from there, the records getting weirder, gnarlier. Their early sound was rougher but still catchy, complex, absurd.
At some point, it was uncool to like Steely Dan. Maybe they became too commercial, too soft, too weird. Who knew? But you certainly weren’t advised to blurt out your affinity at a kegger. Might get you punched, or dumped.
The Dan picked up some punk cred when Minutemen covered “Doctor Wu” on their masterpiece Double Nickels on the Dime (1984). So that was cool. But then, Steely Dan were punks. Becker and Fagan had to have New York sized balls to drop Aja right in the middle of ‘77, punk rock’s Year Zero.
At Fillmore East was the album I jammed every day after school. Was never loud enough. Kept going back to the scorching “Stormy Monday” and the riptide hurricane “Done Somebody Wrong.”
7 songs over 4 sides. And I knew every note, every riff.
And the cover photo. Looked more like a bunch of outlaws than musicians. The Allmans defined Outlaw Music Cool.
Growing up in Florida, the Brothers were part of the heritage, the fabric, the heart and soul of the state. You’d hear them daily on classic rock radio. It all made perfect sense.
My parents told stories about seeing the Allmans at the Fillmore East back in the day. This was around the time of At Fillmore East when the jams would last until sunrise and clouds of pot drifted over the crowd like a late afternoon Florida thunderstorm.
Damn, those boys could play.
Good night Greg, your sweet Southern soul made this world a magical place.