The aural assault of Swans comes to the Tralf - The Buffalo News

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The aural assault of Swans comes to the Tralf

There is a beauty in controlled cacophony, and Michael Gira has been searching for that beauty continuously since forming Swans in 1982. More often than not, he’s found it. And with Swans just-released double-album “To Be Kind,” he’s perfected a high-decibel onslaught, a wall of sound marrying resonant drones and heart-rending melodies.

Gira always has been a confrontational artist, one whose earliest workings in experimental music greatly affected the subsequent development of post-rock and the heavier aspects of industrial music. He comes across as a serious, intense man, and the music of Swans is certainly both serious and intense. It’s also loud. Incredibly loud. For Gira, volume is not just a side effect of the combined sounds of amplified instruments, but is rather part of the compositional process.

Battle for a big gig

On Sunday, Canalside will host a Battle of the Bands with local Americana bands, the winner of which will be invited to open for the Lake Street Dive concert on July 17 at Canalside.

Bands interested can go to and download an application, which can then be emailed to

The free event takes place from 3 to 6 p.m. Sunday.

This is one of several Battle of the Bands events giving local bands the chance to win a slot opening a Canalside concert. On July 17, local R&B groups will compete to open for Sheila E on July 31; on July 20, local alternative bands compete to open for Girl Talk on Aug. 8; and on July 27, the Battle of the Girl Power Bands will decide the opener for a still-to-be-determined Canalside show.

Alvin is a don’t miss

Whenever Dave Alvin comes to town, I’m invariably reminded of my late friend and former Buffalo News colleague Jay Bonfatti. He was a serious fan of both Alvin’s solo work, and his efforts with the Blasters, the band he co-founded with his brother, Phil Alvin.

Twelve years ago, I was still “the new guy” at The News, and Bonfatti was one of the first people to show me kindness and to attempt to “school” me whenever he could. Since we were both music freaks, that “schooling” included brilliant lectures on the virtues of Americana in general, and Alvin/the Blasters in particular. The Blasters married a roots rock aesthetic to a punklike edge, and though never a major commercial concern, became hugely influential and a favorite of attuned critics. Bonfatti was one of the latter.

A decade or so back, when Alvin arrived for a solo show in the Sportsmen’s Tavern, Bonfatti insisted many of his News colleagues gather for what he clearly viewed as a sacred ritual. We duly acquiesced, and the night was one I will cherish the memory of forever, for both musical and personal reasons.

Alvin returns to the Sportsmen’s Tavern, this time with brother Phil in tow, for a sold-out show at 8 tonight.

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