Nothing Romantic About UK’s Savages


“The world used to be silent / Now it has too many voices.”

– Savages (Silence Yourself Manifesto)

As I prepare to see Savages at the Fonda Theatre in L.A. tonight, I look back at my first experience seeing this band earlier this year.

Jerking her head back-and-forth, with sudden and purposeful movements, Jehnny Beth’s dark, piercing black pupils slice through the crowd’s veneer of hipster-euphoria like a Katana sword through a watermelon. Her stage presence is as impressive as Ian Curtis during the genesis of Joy Division, and one day, we’ll all be talking about her ability to own a crowd. So if you weren’t already aware, Beth, the vocalist and lyricist of UK-based quartet Savages, is driven to be taken quite seriously. For her, Savages is fine art; a gallery showcase of her soul, and to be taken seriously as a proper artist is expected.

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The Hipster Gestapo at the El Rey, with their heads spinning as they text their fellow KCRW-listening groupies about the “Next Joy Division,” seem dumbfounded at the monochromatic intensity in the French-born singer’s eyes. As the white lights reveal the wrinkles in their all-black outfits; bass player Ayse Hassan quickly stands out sonically with the pummeling bass line for “City’s Full,” which has the bassist bouncing behind her pearl white P Bass like a possessed beatnik on a pogo stick. The ferocious rhythm section of Savages is the byproduct of Hassan’s experimental punk plucking; smashed together with the outright hydrogen explosion of crashing cymbals and frenetic hi-hat bravado of their drummer, Fay Milton, who is known to have an unconventional warm-up routine that requires isolation and focus. Milton’s virtuosity behind the kit is one of the pillars that will hold this band above their peers, in a different stratosphere, for as long as they wish to occupy the space.

Continue reading Nothing Romantic About UK’s Savages

MNDR @ 9:30 Club

MNDR at 9:30 Club

Ever since I read about – and got hooked on – electropop-IDM sensation MNDR (Amanda Warner) on Sheena Beaston’s blog,  it seemed that well-earned hype has grown exponentially. MNDR is everywhere: magazines, radio, blogs, Facebook advertisements, Mark Ronson’s infectious “Bang Bang Bang,” and now on tour with Chromeo. Maybe it was all the hype or maybe it was my love for everything she’s written with behind the scenes bandmate Peter Wade, but I had high expectations for MNDR’s sold out 9:30 Club debut on Saturday night.

Perhaps the expectations were unreasonable. Mic malfunctions and a lukewarm crowd reaction put a damper on what I anticipated would be my favorite live performance of 2011. It was still an impressive one-woman seven-song set, but MNDR’s finest D.C. performance is still to come. Tokyo’s The Suzan got just as many, if not more, bodies moving to open the night and received a warm reception from the earlybirds. But by the time Warner took the stage in front of her mesmerizing black-and-white light projections of moving rectangles, the 1,500 person capacity venue had filled with Chromeo fans who seemed less than enthused. A few belligerent drunks up front spoiled the set for many by nearly starting a few fights and cussing out MNDR, who in reply asked, “Why are you so sad?” The microphone cut out frequently in the second half of the brief set. Very few were dancing; I felt like an awkward teenager at a school dance. By the time the crowd showed signs of life and clapped along to new single “Cut Me Out,” (mp3 available for free download through Green Label Sound) the set was almost over.

Despite having the odds against her, mega-bespectacled MNDR showed flashes of her brilliance. The quirky and fashionable Warner commanded the audience’s attention and rarely took a break from dancing and smiling to her synths, though she sat to perform the slow tempo hit from 2010’s E.P.E. “I Go Away.” The bouncy and pulsating Patty Hearst tribute song “Send My Greetings” was a highlight and a glimpse into Warner’s bright future, and closer “Sparrow” was as vibrant and beautifully shrieky as ever. “Jump In” and “Fade to Black” didn’t quite capture the magic of the studio versions for me (Damn you, high expectations!), but “Cut Me Out” translated well as a dance-inducing juggernaut. Early tracks (her spelling bee theme songs) “Caligula” and “C.L.U.B.” were sorely missed, and I had hoped to hear either “Diamonds” or “Casual Attraction.”

Regardless, MNDR’s set left me wanting more. Whether it’s a smaller venue, a longer set, or a less lame crowd, MNDR’s next D.C. performance will be the mindblowing dancefest I’m expecting.

[Photo courtesy of Francis Chung, DCist.]

Kate Miller-Heidke @ 9:30 Club

I really didn’t want to enjoy Kate Miller-Heidke‘s 45-minute set last night in Washington, D.C. My other concert reviews on this site have been full of praise and I wanted to write a scathing review; certainly the Australian’s quirky pop, which I had only limited exposure to prior to the show, couldn’t win me […]

Isobel Campbell & Mark Lanegan @ Rock and Roll Hotel

Isobel Campbell and Mark Lanegan

“What is she? Some kind of magician?” my wife inquired as Isobel Campbell shaked, rattled, and pounded several unique percussion tools during “Back Burner.” Indeed, she is. As the songwriter in her unlikely indie-folk collaboration with enigmatic Mark Lanegan, Campbell has masterfully orchestrated the musical backdrop to highlight perfect vocal constrasts. Isobel Campbell and Mark Lanegan put their talents on display Friday night at the Rock and Roll Hotel in Washington, D.C.

From the subtle opener “We Die and See Beauty Reign” to the undeniably-Lanegan-blues closer “Wedding Dress,” I was transfixed by the complementary vocals, almost entirely ignoring the more-than-capable backing band. Lanegan took the lead for standout foot-tapper “You Won’t Let Me Down Again” and the duo put its third record Hawk on display on the sultry first single “Come Undone.” Lanegan mesmerized the crowd with “The Circus is Leaving Town” and Campbell captured the essence of Hope Sandoval‘s sound with “To Hell and Back Again.”

Opener Willy Mason displayed talent well beyond his 25 years during his mid-set duets with Campbell, but by the ethereal “Back Burner,” it was clear that Lanegan and Campbell have superior vocal chemistry. Lanegan may not have deviated much from his badass demeanor – a sort of permanent eyes-closed scowl as he channeled every emotion – but he garnered the most laughs from the half silent, half chatty crowd after a false start of “Come Undone.” Feedback plagued the track, prompting Campbell to halt and unsuccessfully attempt to communicate the problem to the soundboard. Lanegan’s description: “Robotic. Metallic. Beautiful.”

Lanegan otherwise was a man of few words and smiles whereas Campbell was chatty, politely asking for silence (“…but we’re happy!”) for each of Mason’s duets and cracking up during “Cool Water” about another band member’s “ding dong” joke from earlier in the day. The crowd didn’t mind. With three solid records and now memorable U.S. shows to their name, Isobel Campbell and Mark Lanegan had earned it.

[Photo courtesy of Hartzine.]

Setlist after the jump.

Continue reading Isobel Campbell & Mark Lanegan @ Rock and Roll Hotel

Wild Nothing impresses in DC

I first heard Jack Tatum (aka. Wild Nothing) while listening to FM4 radio in Germany a few months back. “Summer Holiday” rang out through the car speakers and ended without the DJ identifying the band before starting another song by another artist. I assumed it HAD to be some obscure, Sarah Records band […]

[Contest] Ticket giveaway for Jesca Hoop and Eels @ Terminal 5

Jesca Hoop is supporting Eels at Terminal 5 in NYC on September 25 (this Saturday!) and we have TWO free tickets to give away to a lucky winner — drop us a comment on this post with anything at all (hopefully something interesting…) and we’ll pick a winner at random by Friday. Make sure you fill […]

Interpol @ The NorVa

Interpol, July 24

After a nearly two year hiatus from touring and a lineup change, the atmospheric and always fashionable Interpol demonstrated Friday night at The NorVa in Norfolk, VA, that it’s back in full stride. In support of its upcoming self-titled fourth record, the NYC-based post-punk kings immediately showed off the new (not the song): the absence of lanky bassist Carlos Dengler, the additions of Brandon Curtis (Secret Machines) on keyboards and David Pajo (Slint and so much more) on bass, and the new material. I anticipated the loss of Dengler to be jarring as he and drummer Sam Fogarino were the driving forces behind the band since its debut, Turn on the Bright Lights; Pajo, however, is no stranger to the scene, and he and Curtis are more than suitable replacements.

Though the band has changed, the music hasn’t. Picking off where 2007’s moody and textured Our Love to Admire left off, nascent tracks “Success” and “Lights” build slowly and capture the band’s trademark sound. Both “Summer Well” and “Barricade” fit an OLTA mold, as well: less “PDA”-style twists and turns and more mastery of the grandiose and repetitious. The band seems to have found its comfort zone, and though Interpol may not sell out venues with ease as it had in the Antics-era, it has achieved a different kind of success.

The supportive crowd at The NorVa embraced the new material but was most electric for the band’s standout tracks like “Say Hello to the Angels,” “Obstacle 1,” and “Evil.” Confident frontman Paul “Julian Plenti” Banks rarely engaged the crowd with banter but crooned well, smiled often, and saved the stage antics (no pun intended) for energetic guitarist Daniel Kessler. There wasn’t a bum note throughout the entire set, a sign of how well rehearsed the band is, and the group’s cohesion was highlighted by Fogarino’s always impressive work on drums. The highlight of the night may have been the insistent clap-along rhythm of “Not Even Jail” or the beautifully elegant “NYC,” though fans who were present may argue it was the heavily requested “Stella Was a Diver and She Was Always Down.” This was a triumphant return to consistency for a band going through changes.

Opening acts Twin Tigers and The Postelles were solid, but the former was much more memorable. The Athens, GA-based group, accurately described as “dream noise” – think of a Sonic Youth-inspired shoegaze with pounding drums and lackadaisical vocals – romped through its set of material from debut Gray Waves. With a band name emphasizing similarity, Twin Tigers focused on contrast with its dissonant guitar harmonies.

[Photo courtesy of Roaming Lucia, Flickr.]

Setlist after the jump. Continue reading Interpol @ The NorVa

Stream an hour long Mumford & Sons Concert

Considering this is such a long video, I hesitated to post it. But then I listened, transfixed, to the first song of the set, “Sigh No More.” It continues to baffle me how the band can conjure up so much raw intensity with only a kick drum and tambourine in terms of percussion.

Anyway, […]

[MP3] No Second Troy: "This is the End of Me"

D.C. ghosts (nice ones!) of a long (but not forgotten!) past, No Second Troy, have finally returned with a new single, “This is the End of Me” off their new album, Colors due out April 27. They’re releasing it in conjunction with their upcoming show at the 9:30 Club next Friday, February 18, […]

[Video] Sufjan plays awesome new song live

The artist: The incomparable Sufjan Stevens. The song: “Too Much Love” (according to the title of the video). It’s a 7-minute epic played by Sufjan at a show in Ithaca Wednesday that features brass, synth, guitar, piano and a whole lot of talent. The quality of the video is pretty outstanding for YouTube. And […]