Venue: EL REY Theater, Hollywood

Date: Wednesday July 24th, 2013


West Hollywood, the El Cid theater on a weeknight in late July of the year MMXIII. Seekers are amassed in a cavernous hall draped and colored deep red in every direction. You slither through the crowd toward the front, drawn forward by the rumbling magnetism of four women on stage. Punk-Rock tight pants and tees in all black save for one in a pearl white shirt.

Sonic simmering, a slow-burn building to a volcanic crescendo of passion or the aggressive impact of an explosive punch of volume and tempo. Both have their own moments. Sometimes you want no one else but Dee Dee Ramone wailing out the “one-two-three-four” intro to ten songs in a row. Other times, it’s all about the ethereal Mood, an escalating seduction of the audience / listener(s) by the band / artist(s).

Savages are a four-piece Post-Punk group from London. Together they are a unique synthesis of four brooding young women, growling and glowering with a threatening allure. At first listen they even sound odd, not for negative reasons but because most bands (especially in Hollywood) in 2013 are not writing and performing in the defiant, droning rhythmic punk-thrash style Savages are.

Every modern musician or artist is a special result of influences from the past being absorbed, blender-shredded and re-born by the creative subconscious. In the colossal, imaginary ‘Earth’s Greatest Record Store’, there resides every single piece of recorded music in human history. Browsing the brimming aisles of this Cosmic Ameoba Records, you can find the chemical compounds to assemble the core sound of Savages by boiling and brewing the base elements of Joy Division, Siouxsie and the Banshees and Public Image Limited.

Despite that simplified comparison, it’s fair to say that Savages sound like NOTHING this music connoiesseur has EVER heard before.


Drummer Fay Milton attacks the kit. The beats are measured and precise, pounding and filling the large room with a heavy thump. This drumming is easy to groove to. Milton plays with the brash confidence all really good drummers display, a brash honest pummeling attitude of “I’m going to make one incredible hell of a racket here, and you’re gonna like it!” She’s convincing.

Bassist Ayse Hassan rumbles along in the low end thunder zone with the drums. It’s an edgy pulse at a pace that saunters slowly at first then rises into hammering fury, like a human heart careening from calm rest into wild excitement and adrenaline. Fay and Ayse make for a solid, kick-ass combo. This catchy, dark, rocking sound pleasantly anchors the core vibe of Savages. These rhythms are not the most complicated, they’re repetitious but charming and fun to casually bounce along to.

Guitarist Gemma Thompson squeals and riffs in the trebly, distorted and boosted stratosphere above the rhythm section. A variety of Fender guitars provide booming low-note valleys as well as screeching lines of intense harmony. The guitar is not looping traditional patterns and leads across the verse and chorus structure, it’s painting and coloring textures and emphasizing moments. Overall it’s something a little different, and very effective. Which is a great way to describe the band in general.

Vocalist Jehnny Beth is not the traditional format female lead singer you would expect, and no less of a STAR for it. If anything, her rarely-seen particular blend of controlled fury and power of presence make her stand far out from the crowd as a singer you don’t quickly forget. She had every single person in the crowded venue completely entranced. Jehnny has a slight but noticeable Franco-European accent. It’s clearly not a voice from these shores. It wasn’t easy to decipher every word of every line given the style of music, but you certainly get the idea. Jehnny Beth is having a good time venting. She is also not kidding in the slightest and would seem at ease in a street fight. There is a distinct and unmistakable toughness to her. The specific sources of her rage aren’t announced, but they don’t need to be, we all feel it. It felt very real, not an acting stage-show pose or contrivance.

However, for all this mention of rough-edged attitude, it’s important to point out that the songs are melodic and catchy. After building the melodic tension to incredible levels, they really get grooving on a landslide riff plus punchy vocals and you don’t want it to end. You want it to stay up high and not come down, because it’s pretty damn wild and thrilling up there. Savages are pretty wildly thrilling all around.


Few would argue against the opinion that pop-culture trends come and go in rapid succession in the Modern Age. Maybe in the Seventies, Eighties and Nineties you could map out major changes in music trends approximately every 4-6 years. Today those numbers have shrunk to every 1-3 years, or less. Around roughly 2009-2010 Psychedelic-Computer-Rock was strumming and chirping at all the hip bars, clubs and parties. This style of Beatles-meets-Eighties-Nintendo soundtrack was succeeded by the Digital Nervous Breakdown of Dubstep. Dubstep caught on quick, but it didn’t have much lasting power, so as the masses searched for the New Buzz the next logical step was Full Throttle “Electronic Dance Music”, or ‘EDM’ if you’d rather.

EDM is peaking right now, this summer of 2K13, brought to full global dominance by the French duo praised as early pioneers of the sound. The smash album Random Access Memories is the sound of “real instruments” (remember those?) played by human players. Daft Punk’s statement is a chandelier of Disco-Soul-Rock proclaiming their own personal boredom with EDM.

Watching Savages felt like seeing a strong contender for What’s Next. They could catch a major wave if they’re lucky, because their sound is a counter-point growth out of most of what EDM is about. It’s a step in evolution that keeps the tempos and crowd-pleasing low end pulse and does it with real instruments and heavy loads of emotional passion from the singer.

The beats are heavy but simple enough to groove on easily, the melodies bounce, attack and howl in repeated lines full of estranged fury. All the sounds you’re hearing are being played by people right in front of you, there are no DJ or backing tracks filling in. It’s a comfortable Next Step on from EDM, just familiar enough to what you already like and just new enough to make it glisten and sparkle when it hits your ears.

Challenging, seductive and visceral. Singing and blasting like a beautiful menace. SAVAGES.

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