Review: Savages at The Joiners (06/08/12)

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There was a strong sense of expectation upon this gig. With Savages poised as one of this year’s hottest unsigned bands, we were anticipating something special and luckily they didn’t disappoint. Before Savages could mesmerise us however, we endured the support acts.

Having no previous conceptions of who or what the support acts would be, we were both relatively open minded. The first act was Cholombian, a minimalistic electro band, who supported Ghostpoet at The Soul Cellar back in May. The subtle ambience that they bought to the venue set the mood brilliantly.

This chilled out vibe was shattered as soon as Palma Violets took to the Joiners stage. Again an act that neither of us had seen before, we weren’t sure what to expect. A four piece made up of guitar, bass, drums and keyboard, they were highly animated upon stage – with bass player Chilli Jesson acting like a man possessed, staring into the audience with wild eyes whilst yelling half cut vocals down the long suffering microphone. If only the music had matched their stage antics they would have been on to a winner. Drummer Will Doyle was consistent with solid fills throughout the set and he looked thoroughly at home on stage. But this was in stark contrast to keyboard player Pete Mayhew, who looked out of place, positioned away from the action to the side of the stage. Their sound could be compared to The Jam or any other post punk band…but Palma Violets were only a very poor imitation of anything in this classic genre. Although exciting to watch, in terms of sound they hadn’t created anything unique, even as the set drew to a close and we were made to endure their poppier tracks. This band still didn’t really seem to be going anywhere.

We were in no doubt that Savages would be able to better the previous act (well we had our fingers tightly crossed). Once the raucous atmosphere had settled, we could feel their presence before they had even played a single note. Known to be a mysterious 4 piece, there was a feeling of almost apprehension in the crowd about what we were about to experience. It was eerie and otherworldly; we seemed to wait for an age whilst dry ice billowed onto the stage – until suddenly out of the mist strolled their lead singer, calm and with short hair to rival that of Sinead O’Connor. The rest of the band followed (all girls) dressed with masculine flair, with their tiny drummer the last to take her place on the best spot on stage. While small, their powerful drummer was not to underestimated. She was more than consistent, bringing an edge to each of their songs.

Courtesy of Karen Wyatt

The chat was kept to a minimum; unlike Palma Violets before them, the focus this time was on the music. There was no need to waste time with awkward stage banter. Instead they just held our attention through pure awe at their musicality. They weren’t a dancing happy band, and they certainly didn’t use the fact that they were all women on stage to sell their music. But they had a power over the crowd from the word go. In-between songs no one dared speak – even at the bar it was deathly silent as we waited with baited breath for the next musical offering. Typically their songs were started by Fay (drummer) with 3 swift clicks of her drumsticks, this was then sharply followed by strong echoed vocals and a punchy bass line, with ambient guitar gliding in subtly from time to time. They differed from the vast majority of bands, with the focus placed not upon the lead singer or the guitarist but instead, on their bassist. She created incredible riffs with confidence and a calmness which when contrasted to Jesson’s over the top performance earlier was a welcome change. It was remarkably refreshing to see a band where the guitar was simply an afterthought when compared to the bass hooks that dominated every song.

Their lead singer as mentioned before was strong and calm – she stepped up to the microphone with a dominating presence that was unexpected due to her small stature. She hardly blinked, instead choosing to glare out at the audience through glassy, wide eyes. This calmness contrasted brilliantly with their drummer who was energetic and borderline aggressive with her kit throughout the entire set. Each band member was highly skilled, although this did slightly detract from their stage presence as an entity, as they were so focused that each member seemed to zone out into their own world retrospectively, rather than interact with each other. This was unimportant though, as the music itself was more than enough to keep our attention. A riveting post-punk band, who you might not choose to listen to on a jog or out on the street but a fantastic band to witness live nonetheless. Everybody there seemed to know that they had witnessed something special that night.

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