Until recently I was pretty sure the brilliant British punk band Savages was comprised of demigods or rock and roll witches or musically inclined elves or some other kick-ass mystical beings like that. How else can you explain the supernatural power the group possesses? Then I randomly met most of the ladies after their sold-out Webster Hall performance the other night. And I’m shocked to report that they are indeed human! Or at least most of them are.
The show itself was a moment. Any fool can see these ladies are on the brink of indie rock stardom. The next time Savages play NYC, they’re in a venue twice the size of Webster Hall. The flames of fame are dancing around Savages as we speak. And for good reason. They reek of authenticity, explode with charisma and are quite simply the hottest new shit popping off right now.
My fellow music nerd Lydia and I walked into the club during their first or second song. I was happy to see that Savages were wasting no time properly pummeling the audience with a dizzying cocktail of hate, lust, and general badassery. The audience was brutally icy for the first half of the performance, but Savages simply wouldn’t be denied and soon enough my fellow hipper-than-thous began to lose an appropriate amount of their shit.
I mentioned the early tentativeness of the audience to the drummer, Fay, when I found her smoking outside the club just after the show. She replied, “You should see the London audiences!”
I guess the ladies are used to working for it.
Fay and I chatted about the tour and the album and their quickly rising status. She was charmingly wide-eyed and giddy about it all. As a person who has documented similar stories before, I must admit that I love that verge-of-stardom-feeling. Everything is so fresh, romantic and vitally important.
Fay was energized knowing that her band had eventually beaten the audience into submission. She assured me, “We’re trying really really hard!”
Loving her earnestness I said, “It’s working lady. Please keep it up!”
I whined about the fact that they didn’t do an encore. She said, “That’s all the songs we know!”
Oh. Whine officially withdrawn.
They did indeed play some great material I had never heard before, including a song so new the lyrics had to be read out of a notebook. And then there was their unreleased gem “Fuckers”. It’s a sharp burner that involves a long instrumental passage featuring their brutally effective guitarist, Gemma. She’s got a knack for playing guitar lines so devilish your eardrums might rupture if you listen too closely. More on her in a minute.
While choking down her cigarette, Fay invited me to the unofficial after-party at a bar down the street. Accepting that invitation was a no-brainer.
This is where I found Savages’ mesmerizing lead singer, Jehnny Beth, seemingly about to pay for her own drink. I realize this is punk rock and everything but that offended me on a cosmic level. Where’s their manager? Record label? Anyone but her to pay for this drink? This woman just commanded the Webster Hall stage like she was Supreme Leader of The Solar System and now she’s having a hard time getting the attention of the bartender at a joint I can’t even remember the name of? I had to intervene.
As I approached, I saw the bartender scold Jehnny for blocking the swinging-door-counter-access-point-thingie folks use to get behind the bar. Shamefully, the bartender didn’t even take her order. She just gave Jehnny grief and walked away. I guess the flames of fame still need a little fanning.
I introduced myself and apologized on behalf of my adopted city for the rudeness. Despite her delightfully manic stage presence Jehnny is very down to earth and completely friendly off stage. I asked what I could get for her. She told me she needed “tokens” for the Big Buck Hunter video game or was it the photo booth? I don’t remember. I figured her phrasing was a British or French thing and she meant to say “quarters”. I shoved some money in the bartender’s hand and got back a fist full of quarters. Jehnny patiently explained to me that she was, in fact, actually looking for tokens. That’s all the machine would take.
Of course she knows exactly what she’s talking about. I’m an idiot. Tokens it is Ms. Beth.
I thanked her for the show, the album and congratulated her on the band’s success. She modestly accepted the praise and said something to the effect that she suspected the buzz would die off eventually. I politely disagreed. If they keep shredding this much face it’s hard to imagine them falling away anytime soon.
Finally the owner of the bar stamped her wrist with a symbol that meant she’d be getting free everything. I breathed easier knowing that order had been restored to the universe. Jehnny kindly offered to wield her magical wrist stamp to sneak me free drinks later. Good looking out.
Meeting the guitarist, Gemma, was a bit more awkward. Please keep in mind I had no real business talking to any of these ladies. I just felt strongly compelled to tell them all how much I enjoy their music. Though their star is quickly rising, they’re at a place where unapologetic gushing might still mean something to them.
Gemma was just beyond Big Buck Hunter being chatted up by a small rocker dude in a straw hat. I encroached but neither of them broke their whisper like conversation long enough to notice me. Then I realized the guy in the hat was Nick from Yeah Yeah Yeahs. I considered backing off and not interrupting these two amazing musicians as they talked shop. But we all know I didn’t do that. With little or no grace, I eventually just jumped in and thanked Gemma. I turned to Nick and thanked him along similar lines. They both politely smiled and thanked me back. I quickly un-encroached.
I kept my eyes peeled for Savages’ impossibly essential bassist, Ayse Hassan. She was nowhere to be found.
For those who don’t yet know, Ayse has a rhythmical gravitas that feels as elemental as Earth itself. She’s perpetually delivering tectonic plates of rock and roll that shimmer with urgency while simultaneously having a gravity that could hold several medium sized moons in orbit. If Thor played bass, he’d sound like her.
She never turned up, at least not while I was still there. I like to imagine she was too busy saving the planet from a space dragon attack or literally welding The Gates Of Hell shut with lasers beams that shoot out of her barely opened eyes. I’ll bet you 20 Big Buck Hunter tokens that’s what she was doing. I guess we’ll never really know.
So I can now confirm that at least 3 of the Savages are in fact humans whose feet actually touch the ground when they walk. Ayse, I’m still not sure about. I guess I shouldn’t really be surprised to learn that these woman are not mystical beings considering what draws me to their music is how urgently human it sounds. In an era still dominated by scientific sounding synths, digital burps, and coldly calculated clicks, the raw emotion of Savages music feels more valuable than ever.
To the impressive ladies of Savages themselves I say that it was an honor to meet you. I can’t wait to see and hear whatever you do next.
*Here’s an appropriately gushy review of the show from the New York Post. Thanks to Lydia for pointing it out: click here
*Marquee phone pic by me. All other photos stolen (couldn’t find credits – apologies).