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Savages @ The Echo

  • By BC Gibson Author Avatar
  • 29 April 2013

Savages @ The Echo

           When I bought tickets for Savages, I’d only heard two of their songs, “She Will“ and “Husbands“; otherwise I was ignorant, I hadn’t read any reviews or watched any clips.  The only other bit of information I had was a quote from their website, repeated by one of the DJ’s on SiriusXMU: “Music and words are aiming to strike like lightning, like a punch in the face.”  Hearing that, I thought, SOLD.

            I did love the two songs I had heard, but even if I’d only liked them (or capital L Liked them), I would have bought tickets, if only to test the band’s statement, and see for myself if it was hyperbole.  If it wasn’t, if the band could back those words up, the show would surely be epic.   

          And as it turned out, Savages weren’t joking around.  Their show was ridiculously good, and I was stoked that I’d been there to see them.  I appreciated that outcome all the more since it had almost not come off: I’d had other plans that night, and it was only when my other plans fell through that I was free and able to see Savages.  Predictably, that unfortunate outcome--NO Savages--would have been due to the influence of a woman. 

            So, right before I bought my tickets for the show, I asked this particular woman if she would like to accompany me.  She said yes; I made the purchase.  Those plans stood for about an hour, before she texted me because she’d remembered that she already had plans for that night.   She’d forgotten the tickets she already had to see Passion Pit, that very night!  To emphasize her sincere regret, sorry was spelled in CAPS.

            I texted back and said it was “all good“, and that I’d see if I could offload my extra ticket (I was still going), and maybe even sell it for a profit.  That was the plan for the next hour, and then she asked if I wanted to go see Passion Pit with her, instead.  Whoever she’d asked beforehand had gone and flaked on her.  Imagine.  Not knowing what I was sacrificing with the choice, I told her yes.  I’d sell all my Savages tickets and go see Passion Pit with her.      

            That plan stood for a few days, but as I probably should have expected, it too was eventually retracted.  And with that evening’s undoing went the likelihood of any future plans involving that woman.  Good news then, because I would be free to go to Savages after all!  And happily, thanks to greediness, the high price I’d set for my tickets on Stubhub had warded off any potential buyers.  The tickets were still mine and I was going. 

            In the meantime, I trolled the internet for more Savages, but there was precious little to be found.  There were three officially released songs, the two mentioned and “Flying to Berlin”, and then a few random ones, the sound of which were suspect.  I was eager to hear more, because I was very impressed with “She Will”.  It is an early, early candidate for my favorite song of the year, both musically and lyrically.  This is how it starts: 

She will enter the room / She will enter the bed / She will talk like a friend / She will kiss like a man / She will fuck other men / She will come back again / Get hooked on loving hard, / Forcing the slut out…

          These words are especially powerful in the voice of lead singer Jehnny Beth, sung with an intensity that is both alluring and unsettling. 

Yeah, you've got to get used to it / And give your heart a little kick; / She will, she will / She will, she will…

          She will?  You think?  What’s her number?  I mean, my heart did need a little kick, what with my Passion Pit date falling off the proverbial cliff and all.  So I gave my extra Savages to my brother, and the two of us went together on a Thursday night.  

            We arrived in the middle of the opener’s set, who was called No Bra.  I’d had a brief listen to their music beforehand, and it had sounded pretty inaccessible.  Really, it was hard to tell whether the music was good or bad, because its bizarreness defied traditional judgments.  And the live performance followed suit.  It too was bizarre, especially as No Bra was also no shirt, performing her set entirely topless.  Now, it seems only reasonable to conceive that the girl does, in the course of her day, wear the occasional shirt, the occasional blouse; but, it seemed as if she’d been living by her project’s name for many years.  To quote a sad song from my youth, “gravity always wins”. 

            Then it was time for Savages.  The four women of the band came out, all of them clothed, and dressed so that their femininity was significantly more subtle.   Before beginning, there appeared to be some minor technical difficulties.  Singer Jehnney Beth said something about starting when “the angels of LA would let us”.  The angels soon obliged and the first song began, drummer Fay Milton pounding out the beat.  As the guitars joined in, Beth began keeping time with a one-arm hammer motion, before stepping up to the microphone to sing “City’s Full.”        

         The onstage persona of the band was instantly apparent.  There was a conviction to them that oozed appeal, like they knew they’d put on a great show, and they knew they’d have a good time doing it.  Throughout the evening there was an obvious musical connection among the bandmates, and a shared confidence in themselves and in the quality of their product.  Beth was the centerpiece, a very worth one.  It probably doesn’t hurt that she’s an actress, and a French one, no less.  The part she plays seems vintage, something that’s been seen before, but it’s played so well that she’s made it her own, updating it for today and making it new again.         

         Savages saved the familiar tracks for last.  This is purposeful, as the band pays careful attention to their setlists.  In an interview with Pitchfork, guitarist Gemma Thompson states, “I get obsessed by setlists. It haunts my dreams. I try to have a live story, in a way, for the sound to grow and become something else. The whole order of it is really important.”  Following that, Beth adds “: I like her to write the story and then I perform it; it's like she gives me a script two minutes before I perform a scene.”  These are telling remarks.  Given their quote from before, the face punching one, it‘s good to see that the band is meticulous in their approach.  They feel they can say such brazen things because they’ve dotted all the I’s and crossed all the T’s.  That quote, “Music and words are aiming to strike like lightning, like a punch in the face”, is from their Manifesto #2, found on the band’s website.  Being that it’s their second, I wonder if they’ll issue more in the future.  At this point, they almost have as many manifestos as they do songs.     

            In between the familiar songs at the end of the set, after “Flying to Berlin” and before “She Will” and “Husbands”, Savages played a new song called “My Condition”.  It was their first time performing the song.  Before beginning, Beth picked up a black moleskin notebook from the floor.  Grabbing the microphone with one hand, she held the notebook open with the other.  She brought the mic stand forward, but when she did she noticed a faint electric humming in the speakers.  She tried to make it go away, and when she tilted the microphone back the noise ceased.  She brought it forward again--static--and then tilted it back again--no static.  She gave a wry smile and some in the crowd chuckled; she said something else about “the angels of LA” and then found a spot on the stage that was static free. 

            “My Condition” might have been their best of the night.  It shows the live chops of the band: they are so good that their best song can be the one where the lead singer is reminding herself of the lyrics by glancing in a notebook.    

           "Husbands” was last, the knock-out blow.  The baseline is punctuated by bursts of jarring guitar, leading up to the chorus:

God I wanna get rid of it / God I wanna get, get rid of it… / …Get rid of it / My house, my bed, my husbands… / …My room, my life / My husbands…

            The song sounds like a psychological break, and as such it’s a worthy climax for the “story” evinced through Savages setlist.  

            When it was over, my first clear thought was to buy something with their name on it; get my hands on some Savages merchandise.  The selection was disappointing though, only a white t-shirt with “Savages” written down the front three times.  I’m sure they’ll have better t-shirts next time, so I’ll just get one then.      

            Now, I go to 3-5 concerts a month, and occasionally I find myself wondering if it’s really worth the hassle of driving across town, spending money, standing--always with the standing--to say nothing of what my hearing will probably be like in 20 years.  But then there are shows like Savages’, that remind me why I l even bother going to live shows in the first place, shows that give me goosebumps because they are just so fucking awesome.  Now I’ll be filling my calendar with shows for at least another year or two, looking for a similar fix.  Anyway, I’m sure they’ll have real tiny hearing aids in 20 years.