Entry 0083: Savage Rock: a review

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LP: Silence Yourself by Savages

2013 Matador OLE-1036-1, Pop Noire OLD-1036-1

Favorite Track: Husbands

 

The anticipation to see the Savages play live was like a downed wire sparking before my shoes. If I’m lucky, I’ll feel every bit of electrical power paralyzing me as I incinerate. The coming conflagration is awaiting me in Cleveland at the Grog Shop, a venue I heard stories about back when I was in university. My friend and I were already on the road, the cool air blowing our hair back, Dylan on the stereo. It is only a four hour drive, but each yellow line recedes into the infinite middle distance. I could quite possibly never get off this road.

I heard Savages for the first time at a house party. A curly-haired boy with a wisp of a mustache pulled into his living room and said simply, “Listen to this.” Ten seconds into the song, I was memorizing the name of the band and the album title. I began to tremble. Some of the sounds they were making reminded me of being crushed by a garbage truck. Or the impact of a collapsed structure. My curly-haired friend just smile.

When their second album “Adore Life” came out, I bought both of them on vinyl and went home immediately. I had a new favorite band but I hadn’t realized it yet. Not until I saw that they were coming to Cleveland.

Speaking of Cleveland, we roll to a stop in front of a refurbished firehouse. Our host, for the sake of identity protection I will call Mr. Hilarious Wormbody, Third Order of the Erisian Lebron James Society, greeted us with a tour of occult significance: an occult church where a president of the USA preached, a Freemason temple which was kicked out of the order for being too radical, and the hotspot in the séance community that now houses three Emmys. Probably haunted Emmys. We ate outside in the surprisingly sunny weather, enjoying the breeze off of Lake Erie. A visit to the Art Museum only added to the excitement of the day as I stood in front of the musketeer swords daydreaming. Also, my love of ancient Egypt flared an itchy interest I hadn’t scratched in years. Expect a mummy in my next story…

Then came time for the concert. The lights dimmed. The crowd was an interesting mix of old and young, punk leather and dreaded hippie, short and tall, the thrilled and the smug. The band came out and Jehnny Beth immediately erased any notion of a boring show. Just in her greeting, she oozed enthusiasm. The first song “I’m Here” tore through the venue, each note a chain of ball lightning rocking every member of the crowd onto the balls of their feet. Gemma was just as I had imagined: standing in the corner  reticent about letting her hair escape her eyes, but holding nothing back on her instrument, which I rather suspect she was viewing as simply an extension of her fingers and hands. When the bass line and drum beats began “Sad Person”, I screamed and tried to dance in the tightly-packed crowd. Jehnny’s performance was infectious–articulating each word like a gun shot, yet smiling and high-fiving people, making everyone feel welcome and included. The audience is part of the band and the band is as much the audience.

Then she started stage diving. A couple of times she was mere inches from hitting her head on the ceiling above. The Grog Shop is not very tall. While most people’s eyes gravitated to her body being passed from person to person, I snuck glimpses of Gemma, Fay, and Ayse–they seemed content in their own worlds as if they were not even playing a show but just existing. They played mostly from “Adore Life” but threw in some old songs as well. I loved everyone from “Husbands” to “Slowing Down the World” to “Evil”. When “the Answer” came on, I stopped moving, rooted in place by the impressive crunchy sound of Gemma’s guitar. I’m pretty sure the guy at the soundboard pushed the lever to the max for the guitar; on the album, the sound was much more balanced. But live, it was the perfect move. That riff was rough concrete being chewed by a hand-cranked lawnmower. I contained myself before I just lashed out and threw my arms into everyone’s faces. Instead, I started pogoing up and down. Then Jehnny was crowdsurfing again and I was holding her up, the music and blood going to my head, and then everyone seemingly decided to let go at once, did we act like a herd, maybe she was just going to drop to the floor and sing right into our undeserving faces, but she totally is love with us, tonight we are all one, and no she is not dropping but just hanging by those strong arms of hers from a pipe, and I am standing there right next to her wondering is she frightened does she care is she laughing this is awesome oh I will grab her boot and lift and there are so other people and she is back on top of the world again and waiting and watching and I think she just looked at me so I stepped forward and she jumps and for a moment I panic because my outstretched hands are align with her breasts and that would be awkward so I moved them and she lands on me and I’m sure my fingers just poked her in the neck which was awkward and then she up and over me and back on stage and despite her hair slick with sweat the smile is continuing the fantastic drumming is my heart beat the bass line is catchy with hints of groove in it and Gemma isn’t facing the audience anymore she is lost to the superior craft of her musicianship and Jehnny is saying “Fuckers” a lot and they are coming to Cincinnati and I’m going to see them again and the concert is over and I am laying on an orange couch in a haunted room full of Emmys thinking to myself that I am a Savage and what a hell of a concert I just attended.

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