For the past few weeks Mike Krol and recently reformed Brooklyn based Swearin’ have been co-headlining gigs on the east coast, starting in Atlanta and finishing up in Chicago following a few dates north of the border. Tonight’s stop was in the gritty New Haven suburb of Hamden, CT. Opening the evening was Laundry Day from New Haven, not to be confused with the teen alt pop band from NYC. The Elm City veterans put forth a solid effort for the early arrivers timid as they were. The real fun was about to begin as Krol and company took to the stage donning their outfits. In the past, Krol’s live show attires have ranged from elaborate ensembles featuring each member in full police uniform to a simpler black eye on each member of the band. Tonight’s dress fell somewhere in between.
Allison Crutchfield has been pulling double duty every night of this tour playing bass for Krol and then of course guitar and vocals in Swearin’. Tonight with Krol and company, however, she looked like the missing bassist from the White Stripes with her red jeans, matching red blouse, and coiled red Vox cable plugged into her white Hagstrom I bass. To her left, guitarist Sean Lango donned dark green trousers and a short sleeved polyester collared shirt of the same color buttoned all the way to the top. Slung over his shoulder was a 60’s era Hagstrom III guitar while at his feet were black and white Old Skool Vans which secured his 50’s Midwestern gas station attendant look. Mike Krol took center stage dressed almost entirely in white including his jeans and long sleeve button down notched right up to the gullet, with the only splash of color being his oxblood Doc Martens. Krol’s tambourine, as you might have guessed, was white as well. To Krol’s left, guitarist Graham Hunt looked like a cross between an 80’s era astronaut and member of DEVO with his orange linen jumpsuit, a win win look for certain. Without question this troop was ready to rock.
Krol was on from the get go, banging away on a cymbal while his bandmates added in the cacophony of noise and feedback that signaled the opening of the title track of Krol’s 2019 release on Merge Records, Power Chords. As the swirling sounds took form Krol grabbed his chrome plated mic stand and drew the mic in as close to his mouth as possible delivering the opening lines:
“I used to never understand the blues
Until the night I met you”
Between verses Krol urged the crowd to “come forward, come forward” and the tentative audience obliged upping the energy in the previously subdued room. While Krol is solely responsible for all of the instrumentation in the studio, he relinquishes his playing duties in favor of performing during live shows. As a result you get a hyper focused performer who delivers 100% night in and night out, sellout or not. It’s impressive to watch and his energy is contagious, making for a truly entertaining concert. True to form Krol found an opening in the front row and jumped down into the crowd dragging his mic cable behind him as he continued to croon the words to “Power Chords”. Returning to the stage where he ripped through 4 more songs Krol paused to chat with the audience at length following the raucous ending of “Left for Dead”. Krol explained that this was a “co-headlining tour” which meant he and Swearin’ took turns alternating who performed last. With a wry smile he gently threatened the crowd not to leave after his set or we’d have to suffer Ms. Crutchfield’s wrath. He also shared that he had several close friends in attendance since he had called New Haven home for 2 years when he worked at the Yale University Art Gallery. Apparently, Krol’s move from Milwaukee to New Haven was to follow the love of his life who as Krol put it “got a masters in breaking hearts!” Of course we know that’s all water under the bridge now that he plans to wed the far cooler and more talented Allison Crutchfield. A side note here, his proposal to Allison may very well be the most epic proposal I’ve ever seen. See his Instagram for photos, just brilliant!
Back to the music, Mike and the band tore through tracks from 2015’s Turkey, 2013’s Trust Fund, and 2011’s I Hate Jazz including crowd favorites “Fifteen Minutes” and “Cease and Desist”. Between climbing the drum kit, tossing his tambourine in the air, and leaning out over the crowd with his mic thrust to his lips, Krol also occasionally knelt down to activate an intense strobe light that sent the entire band into a sort of slow motion animation. Krol bookended his set with four from Power Chords and closed it out with aptly titled “The End”. What more can I say other than “fuck that was fun!”
Swearin’ was up next and despite the high mark set by Krol, they did not disappoint. Krol’s words proved to pay dividends as everyone appeared to stay for the final act of the night, and really why wouldn’t they? Crutchfield returned to the stage once more only this time front and center with a guitar instead of a bass at her waist. If Krol was to Hagstrom then Swearin’ was to Fender. Bassist Amanda Bartlet rocked a white on white Mustang, Allison had her signature Musicmaster, and fellow guitarist and singer Kyle Gilbride shouldered a classic Jazzmaster. Gear details aside the relatively recently reformed quartet showed no signs of time off as they worked efficiently through nearly an hour of material. Crutchfield and Gilbride traded off lead vocal duties from song to song throughout much of the set, a daunting task considering Crutchfield’s virtuosic singing abilities, but both were notable in their own right.
Opening the set with the first tracks from their 2012 eponymous album set the tone for the evening. Following which, Crutchfield thanked the crowd for sticking around gave a shout out to opening acts Laundry Day and Mike Krol. Swearin’ collectively nailed each song that followed sounding almost better than they do on record. The foursome tracked songs from their latest release, 2018’s Fall Into the Sun on Merge Records, all the way back to the title track off of their debut 2011 EP What A Dump. In terms of musicianship, there are few bands with the talent, depth, and originality as Swearin’ and this becomes readily apparent during their live show. Finishing their set with recent cuts “Future Hell” and “Grow into a Ghost” the relative few but mighty demanded an encore. After a very brief respite, the gang returned for a wonderful and fitting encore of the classic track “Movie Star”. While Krol was crowned Homecoming king tonight, Swearin’ were undoubtedly the belle of the ball. Shows like these remind us concert goers how lucky we are when these co-headlining tours come around. Don’t miss these two acts at the top of their game when they visit a city near you!