Parquet Courts and Savages
Sound Opinions Live
July 18th, 2013
Lincoln Hall, Chicago, IL
My two favorite new bands this year (London’s all-female Savages and Brooklyn Americana punks Parquet Courts) came together for a free live taping of my favorite music podcast, Sound Opinions (sorry All Songs Considered), for a night of interviews and live performances at one of my favorite Chicago venues, Lincoln Hall. As you can tell, a lot of favorites, so expectations were high, but the night definitely didn’t disappoint. Not only was it cool to see both bands for the first time, but it was cool to see them do an interview right beforehand, as both interviews shed some light on why each band makes the music they do.
Parquet Courts started off with an interview, and among the interesting things about the band were they were more influenced by post-modern philosophers and writers than other artists’s lyrics, they are a lyrics-first band which seems odd for a punk band, they call their crazy loose but somehow tight rhythm “Leather Rhythm”, and if lead singer Andrew Savage could have one album on a desert island, it would be Neil Young’s Zuma. All this made me appreciate the band more, and the live show proved more than adequate, but not remarkable. Each of the two Savage brothers (Austin and Andrew) stand on either side of the stage with bassist Sean Yeaton front and center, who surprisingly served as the real star of their live show, pushing the show along and displaying more energy than the other members combined. The band went through about 20 minutes of new material which was much more droning and epic, showing a new side of the band, but the highlights came when the band went through the best material on their whiplash debut Light Up Gold. The way the band would stack song on top of song and even mix songs together, like throwing “Light Up Gold” in the middle of an epic 10+ minute “Stoned and Starving” was mixed wonderfully. But their show would shrink in the huge shadow created by Savages’ performance.
Savages’ interview was as sweet and pleasant as any interview you may see, with three of the four members (French lead singer Jehnny Beth, bassist Ayse Hassan, and guitarist and really the mind behind the band Gemma Thompson) sharing some of the ideas behind the band as well as even some fond childhood memories. Drummer Fay Milton did not do the interview not because she was shy, but because she did a long warm up routine every show to get her head ready to smash drums for an hour. Some of the most interesting tidbits were lead singer Jehnny Beth talking about how she grew up always on stage and tour with her playwright father which explains all the on-stage theatrics, Gemma Thompson talking about having the name and the concept for the band before they even formed, and Thompson talking eloquently about how they are out to show music isn’t a lower form of art than any other medium, even though it is often portrayed that way. The concept for the band’s stage show Gemma said, is to pour every ounce into every note played on stage, with the energy mattering far more than the technique, to snap the audience into consciousness to live in the now and love your friends and family members more. She said they aim to change lives with each show, which isn’t an ambition you hear from most bands, so I found this extremely admirable.
If you just saw the band’s interview and knew nothing of the band (like my wife and her friend that also attended), you were in for a real shock when the band hit the stage. Savages has one of the most mesmerizing, intense, and downright scary shows you could possibly see. From the opening notes of “I Am Here”, it’s evident that although the show may feel unpredictable and unbelievably energetic, every detail of the band’s show has been curated exactly how the band wants it. From the black and white aesthetic of everything on stage, to every distinct gesture the seemingly possessed Jehnny Beth makes, the band appears fully formed, even though they only played their first show 18 months ago.
Each member has their own distinct energy which can’t be said about most bands. Lead singer Jehnny Beth stalks around the stage with frenetic movements reminiscent of Joy Division’s Ian Curtis’s nervous energy but more alluring and transfixing in many ways. Bassist Ayse Hassan plays fast and loose with some of the most prominent and driving bass you will hear in any band, drummer Fay Milton plays like her hair is on fire but somehow still incredibly crisp, and guitarist Gemma Thompson plays some of the most unique and varied guitar lines out of any guitarist I have seen. Every element of this band, especially when you throw in the perfected light show, makes it nearly impossible to look away.
The band ended on the three most fiery tracks from their debut Silence Yourself, “She Will”, “Hit Me”, and “Husbands”. “She Will”, which landed on our top 5 songs of 2013 at the mid-way point, reaches such a feverish high its hard to come down after. “Hit Me”, which sounds to me like Joy Division playing Van Halen’s “Hot for Teacher”, hit a strange point in the middle where Jehnny Beth grabbed the head of a female audience member, looked her in the eye, and told her to hit her repeatedly. That odd request on top of the spoken word Beth would speak and her other strange antics that she would perform throughout the show points to a sort of performance art element in their shows that you rarely see. “Husbands” topped things off with Beth’s menacing repeated shriek bringing things to a close. If you think these songs sounded intense on record, the energy seemingly doubles in their live performance.
So I couldn’t more highly recommend catching Savages when they come to your neck of the woods, and I will even throw on the stamp of “Must-See Live Band of 2013″.
Parquet Courts Review: 7/11
Savages Review: 10.5/11