While Swearin’ was playing the basement of the First Unitarian Church last Wednesday night, there was a square dance going on upstairs. Although the separate worlds that so often exist within that same building no longer phase anyone, on this particular occasion it seemed like a timely reminder of how singular the music community in Philadelphia is; how it ebbs and flows as time passes, changes happening so subtly you don’t notice them until suddenly, a once-beloved band is sorely missed. And on Wednesday night, Philly’s music scene got one of its missing pieces back.
Not long ago, nobody expected Swearin’ to ever play another show, in Philadelphia or anywhere else. But the last year has seen the broken-up band reunite and return to making and playing music with a new, refreshed energy. Earlier this month, Swearin’ released their triumphant new album Fall into the Sun, their first in five years. (Their last record release show, singer/guitarist Allison Crutchfield pointed out mid-set, was in 2013 at one of the city’s other historic DIY spaces, West Philly’s now-defunct Golden Tea House).
After opening sets by fellow Philly bands Big Nothing and Empath, Swearin’ took the stage to little fanfare but the crowd’s cheers. There are no flashy lights or dramatic walk-ons at the Church, but the newly re-formed band was immediately at home, launching into their set with. It was much like Crutchfield sings in “Big Change,” the opening track on Fall into the Sun and their set opener — the familiar, sweaty basement seemed to be full of people who “found each other by chance through rock and roll music.”
Crutchfield and co-frontperson Kyle Gilbride alternated songs throughout Swearin’s hour-long set, which dived into every corner of the band’s lifespan as old songs flowed into new ones, the two eras of the same band intertwining with ease. And although the crowd took Crutchfield’s joking permission to throw bottles and cans onstage only if they could hit drummer Jeff Bolt a little too seriously (a couple dozen empties sat piled up at the foot of his drumkit by the end of the night), people did seem appropriately awe-struck by the moment they were witnessing. New songs provoked a thoughtful listen as audience members became acquainted with new lyrics and sentiments, while old classics like “Dust in the Gold Sack” were met with an overjoyed outpouring of emotion and cheers.
After ending their set with another old favorite, “Movie Star,” Crutchfield came back onstage alone for an encore, asking the crowd to be nice to her while she played the sparse and emotional Fall into the Sun track “Anyway.” (They were nice.) Her bandmates then returned with a celebratory bottle of champagne and closed out the night with the new album’s lead single, “Grow into a Ghost,” filling the room with the relief and excitement of knowing that Swearin’ is not a thing of the past any longer.
Here to Hear
What a Dump
Oil and Water
Dust in the Gold Sack
Grow into a Ghost
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