SMACKDOWN!: Mountain Swallower vs. Condor and Jaybird

New Year’s Eve is a smörgåsbord of debauchery and decadence. As per usual, I had many options this year: the always amusing Analog Arcade Bar offered some sweet console giveaways alongside their champagne toast, the Candymakers took over RME, and good old Chicago offered some amazing shows from the likes of Umbra and the Volcan Siege, Houndmouth, and Patti Smith.

All tempting. My ultimate decision to attend the New Year’s Eve Smackdown between Condor and Jaybird and Mountain Swallower mainly hinged on two things: the kickassity of Condor’s most recent release show for The Power as well as the donation of all proceeds to the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN) and Kings Harvest Ministries. And at the end of this post, I will declare a definitive winner.

The flyer is the icing on the cake.

First, the show:

The best way to start NYE is with a performance by a skinny white dude in old lady’s brunch hat calling himself Aqualife in a German accent. None of that was sarcasm (I know it’s hard to tell sometimes). Andrew Cline’s compositions are playfully synth, with progressions kidnapped from the late-1970s and 80s and mated with a melodious noise set. If this sounds like a contradiction in terms, you just don’t get it, man. It takes cajones to invoke Vanessa Carlton and destroy her one hit song in front of over a hundred Midwestern post-alter-supermodernists. That’s the type of animal that lives inside Andrew Cline.

Davenport’s own Harsh Times likes to play songs with names like “Too High to Die” and “Fucking Up” that descend from punk and garage rock as popularized by bands with names that begin with “The” – The Buzzcocks, The Skids, The Stooges, etc. And while we won’t have any shows from The Clash, The Adverts, or The Damned to look forward to, Harsh Times is here for us. So happy.

Lungs appeared. You know how with aughts nu metal, every song has that one little great bit that lasts 12 seconds and then it’s ruined? Usually by some muddy strings and a singer whining through his nose lyrics that sound like they were written by a seventh grader? Lungs takes that one great bit and turns it into a whole song. No whiny singer. Instead, the voices of Doom and his brother Cataclysm. Thank you, Lungs! Bangovers galore.

Sister Wife played a set. Everyone has a boner for Sister Wife. No further commentary necessary. If you haven’t heard them, you’re a musical muttonhead and I pity you (also, you should click here).

Moving on…

The actual headlining performance – the MAIN Event:

Mountain Swallower claimed stage right; appropriate given their role as the forces of good. In case anyone missed out on the metaphor, they helpfully color-coordinated. It was a bit odd to see the white suits, since I always picture Mountain Swallower as more of a muddy rust.

At first, they played on their own, and their set was similar in sound to the September show (see below). I still wasn’t sure what to expect. With no octagon and no apparent weaponry onstage, it was safe to assume that the smackdown would indeed be a kind of musical battle. I was picturing series of back-and-forth performances, maybe? With a Clap-o-Meter?

Inevitably, good could not sustain without the appearance of evil. The darkness cannot exist without the light. Thus, Condor and Jaybird tore onto the stage, all in black, to meet Mountain Swallower.

The two bands faced each other. We held our collective breath. This was potentially a fight to the death. What would happen next?


Before that night, I wouldn’t have said these two bands have a similar sound. And I still won’t. Listening to Condor and Jaybird’s albums, one can pick out dozens of musical styles across a handful of songs. They need to sprawl out, both physically and symphonically. Meanwhile, Mountain Swallower is a band that can play an acoustic set in the Australian outback (they look like they could handle a croc). I’d like to sit around a giant campfire with all my friends and listen to them play a set under the stars.

But somehow these two bands came together to form, like, a Super Friends-type group. MountConSwallowBird.

They fit together like this.

It was an extra special treat to hear these guys all play together featuring duo drummers and singers who love to get right lusty with their harmonies. Sharing the stage, they shared each other’s music in a big ol’ megaset. They rocked tunes from their most recent respective albums. For fans of both bands, it was essentially magic.

What likely makes this marriage work is the mutual respect and admiration these musicians all have for each other. They’re familiar with each other’s work and are very comfortable together on stage. They truly became an entity larger and separate from their individual groups.

There’s probably some meaningful philosophical thread I could pull out of this. Mostly, I’m just stoked I was there to see it. It’s an event that can never be replicated (a couple for real got engaged that night), but there’s no reason that MountConSwallowBird can’t fly again. Perhaps this summer? Under those stars I mentioned?

After the countdown and the kissing and the fireworks, the show ended with an ambush set by Closet Witch who took over the stage when no one was looking and surprised the hell out of everyone. They’re good at that.

And the last thing. The winner and champion:

The audience! You really should have seen that coming.


Also: RAINN and King’s Harvest, which received $1,200 from the show.