Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Les Savy Fav - Electric Ballroom, London - 22/11/2010

Monday night’s are usually a bit tame aren’t they? It’s the start of yet another week, you’ve got another four days ahead of you at work before you can let loose… If however, like myself, you have recently been made redundant, it’s a perfect opportunity to go see the powerhouse of punk rock Les Savy Fav up close and personal.

I arrived early to Camden’s Electric Ballroom just as Cloud Nothings began they’re blisteringly energetic and upbeat set to a fairly deserted room. As Dylan Baldi astutely pointed out “it’s too early, in America we’re only eating our dinner right about now”. I’m not entirely sure how gig timings work in America. In the distant hazy year of 2001 I attempted to go see Mark Everett’s “reclusive remix wizard” alter ego MC Honky in Brooklyn. However, on day two of my visit to New York, I managed to have the world’s longest power nap in my hotel and awoke approximately 6 or 7 hours after the gig had finished. I therefore am probably not the best person to comment on transglobal gig timings. But I disgress..

To be fair, the room was verging on empty, but hey, if you weren’t there it was your loss. I recently reviewed the Cloud Nothings release Turning On, and I have to say that upon hearing it live, it didn’t quite have that same Sparklehorse / Mark Linkous lo-fi sound I associated with the record – but was certainly a thrashing, raw experience that left me wanting more. My personal highlight would have to be one of the first tracks I heard from the up and coming lo-fi bedroom rockers, “Cool Kid”.

Next up on the bill was a splash of the UK’s young blood, Leeds’ Sky Larkin. The trio nailed a tight set to a room that was slowly beginning to fill out. I have to admit, I was going in a bit cold with Sky Larkin, as “Molten” was the only track I was particularly familiar with beforehand – and disappointingly I didn’t get to hear it live. I did however get introduced to many more songs which I will make an active effort to follow up. Katie Harkin’s vocals were the right balance of nonchalantly cool and appropriately energetic, when they needed to be. She darted between the guitar and the keyboard, however I was particularly enthused by Nestor Matthews on drums – it’s refreshing to see someone so into their performance they look like they might cry with joy. Beautiful.

Sky Larkin finished their performance by announcing they had, for the first time whilst touring with Les Savy Fav, their own dressing room. There was a sense of conflict in Harkin’s voice as she announced she had no idea what Tim Harrington’s outfit/costume would involve tonight. All was to be revealed (thankfully not literally).

Ten minutes before Les Savy Fav blew my eardrums into another atmosphere entirely, Tim Harrington came out dressed in blue pin stripe pajamas with a poncho over his head, opened a collapsible table up, and performed what I can only describe as a mix of live art installation / bizarre pre-gig antics. Looking like a more disheveled version of Will Oldham at bedtime and armed with a tub of Waitrose sponsored flapjacks, Tim pretended to be asleep for the audience, occasionally throwing savory treats into the crowd in between impersonating (what I interpret as) a dog dreaming about chasing cats and having the obligatory mid-sleep nipple scratch.

Tim soon got up as the other band members adorned the stage and in no time at all lunged himself into the crowd for what has to be one of the most fun gigs I’ve ever been to. I can honestly say Les Savy Fav have changed my perspective on the live gig experience entirely.

Tim Harrington’s relentless love for the crowd and his constant exploration of the room made for an interesting night – throwing himself over stairwells and balconies into the crowd, climbing the stage equipment and dangling upside down, pouring one punter’s drink all over him, parting the audience like Moses and the sea for what can only be described as funky strut back to the stage...

At one point, being the nicotine fiend I am, I sneaked outside for a quick cigarette. Myself and a couple of others were surprised to see down the adjoining alley Tim had burst threw a back door into the smoker’s alley, sweating like some crazed madman with the microphone and was singing to an audience of three. By the time I had got my camera out of my pocket he had been ushered back inside to a crowd who couldn’t get enough of the tour-de-force that is Les Savy Fav.

I could go on for a long time about the charismatic Tim Harrington and his unusual stage presence, but it wouldn’t be fair to the rest of the band and the fact that they tore it up onstage just as much as Tim did everywhere else. As Tim said – “this is a concert, and we’re gonna smoke it to ashes”. They certainly did. Long live Les Savy Fav.

Words: Neil Phillips

Photo: Tim Boddy

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