The mesmerizing reunion virus infected Hollywood on Saturday night, as Swervedriver’s ax pyrotechnics mind-melded with Film School’s phased anthems at the Henry Fonda. “We’ve waited 10 years for this,” Film School frontman Greg Bertens cheered, after his wall-of-sound confessionals set the table for Swervedriver’s rugged guitar epics, which generated more intensity as the night wore on.
After a decade in the shop, the recently resuscitated quartet’s engine is still performing at peak efficiency.
San Francisco’s Film School kick-started the hypnotics after L.A.-based Xu Xu Fang’s steamy psychedelia warmed up the crowd. (Click here for an interview with Film School’s Greg Bertens on the tour and more.) Bertens’ spaced-out soundtracking was captivating live, as his crew tore through atmospheric tracks like “Compare” and “He’s a Deep, Deep Lake” without relent. The band’s retrofitted reverb kept Los Angeles’ notoriously flighty crowd together, especially on the cinematic stomp of “Two Kinds of Love” and “Lectric,” before Bertens bowed out and hyped the crowd for the reunited Swervedriver.
True to form, the foursome came on without pretension, tearing into bruising ’90s classics like “For Seeking Heat” and “Sandblasted” before launching into their best-known shredder, “Duel.” That got the audience’s attention and held it for the rest of the night. The guitar interplay between Adam Franklin and Jim Hartridge was seamless, as they spent most of the night switching between Les Pauls, Telecasters, Jazzmasters and more.
Knowing a bit about guitar and the band comes in handy at Swervedriver concerts. Some of their anthems can be a bit too intricate and esoteric for newcomers. It is something that may have hurt them in their former incarnation, when their take-no-prisoners rock skewed strange for a ’90s dominated by Beatles simulations like Oasis. Swervedriver can take time and patience, but the payoff is huge. The passage of time, and the band’s increasing relevance, is beginning to prove that.
And as much as Swervedriver’s knotted ax tracks derive from Dinosaur Jr., The Stooges and other guitar legends, they remain strikingly original. The once-maligned “99th Dream” has emerged from the last decade a ragged psych-surf epic, and Swervedriver smoked it live on Saturday night. Same goes for Mezcal Head classics like “Girl on a Motorbike” and encore finale “Duress.” Franklin’s vocals were suitably lifted above the guitar frenzy, and delivered nicely on early crossovers like “Rave Down” and later cuts like “Behind the Scenes of the Sounds and the Times.”
The reunion, and recognition, was a long time in coming. Here’s hoping Swervedriver sticks around for awhile to enjoy it.
This article appeared at Wired