Savages at House of Vans
  • Savages at House of Vans

Last night was my most ambitious outing so far during this year’s CMJ Music Marathon. I’m not even exactly sure how many acts I caught, but a surprising percentage were quite good. I’m planning on compiling my thoughts on the festival for a post on Monday, but I don’t feel like waiting to write about Savages, who I saw last night at the Vans-sponsored House of Vans—they’e my favorite thing so far.

I was actually at the Greenpoint venue (it’s kind of a raw space, so the show felt like a warehouse party with particularly good sound and lighting systems) to catch noisy, punkish Harlem rap group Ratking (more on them later) on the stage devoted to hip-hop acts. But I stuck around when the band on the “rock” stage started setting up, largely because they had a really good look: a bunch of women in very black, very London-stylish outfits, with very “about to get down to some business” looks in their eyes. After they got their stage volumes set they did just that, exploding into a focused set of material that’s obviously influenced by Siouxsie & the Banshees, but with an anthemic quality that makes me think of PJ Harvey and heavy doses of the rhythmic jaggedness and angularity of British postpunk.

The band was extremely tight—probably the best rhythm section I’ve seen so far this week—and has an exceptionally good sense of tone. But it’s hard to focus on anything other than vocalist Jehnny Beth. Her compelling, androgynous personal style is kind of like a softer-edged Annie Lennox, and crackles with an intense energy that will completely absorb your attention. I went with a friend who didn’t particularly like the music—she was there for SpaceGhostPurrp—and she happily watched Savages’ whole set.

A tastefully shot performance video after the jump gives a hint at what they’re up to. They’re only in the States for CMJ, but given the buzz they’ve generated after just a couple of shows, I see a U.S. tour in their near future.