I wanted to catch Savages‘ set at Coachella in 2013. From what little I knew about them at the time, they were an all-female, loud, punk band based out of the United Kingdom. They didn’t have a lot of music out, but from what I was able to hear and watch online, they definitely piqued my curiosity. As fate would have it, I wasn’t able to get to the festival grounds in time and they became one of the many bands that I had to add to the list of band casualties.
But as fate would also have it, a few months later, a buddy of mine emailed me letting me know he had a couple of extra tickets to catch them at the El Rey, July 23, 2013. By that time, tickets for both of their shows had already sold out, so I jumped at the opportunity.
When I got to the venue, the opening act was already onstage performing: Johnny Hostile. Johnny Hostile is a co-founder, along with Savages lead singer Jehnny Beth, of Pop Noire Records and one of the producers of of Savages’ debut album Silence Yourself.
Alone on stage, accompanied for the most part only by a drum machine and guitar pedals, he set the mood right for what was to come. His music was moody, ethereal and heavy. Part synth-pop and part punk, with industrial drums. His set was accented with special appearances by Gemma Thompson (Savages’ guitarist) and Jehnny Beth for various songs. It was truly a perfect appetizer to the main entree of Savages. I ended up purchasing his 7” single that was for sale, and even got him to autograph it after the show. I would have taken a picture of it, but I can’t find it at the moment as it’s lost in my vinyl stack that need to be organized (and listened to).
Dressed in their trademark all black, Savages took the stage to a rousing and wild applause. I was up front about three rows from the stage. I kept my fingers crossed that a crazy mosh pit wouldn’t ensue like the last concert at the El Rey I attended, but as fate would have it, they played their most popular, and aggressive songs first. Yup, there was a mosh pit. I really wanted to get some video of “City’s Full” and “Shut Up”, but I wasn’t going to take a chance at having my camera knocked out of my hand.
Savages are about as intense as a band can get. Jehnny Beth sets the mood with her deep stare that almost makes you nervous to watch her. It’s a threatening stare that intimidates and fits the music that the band creates. Her stage presence is almost menacing, but that only adds to the effectiveness of the show. Ayse Hassan was steady on bass, and Fay Milton was relentless on drums, but I was particularly impressed with the playing of Gemma Thompson. Gemma Thompson was absorbed in her guitar play, creating her own “wall of sound”. Amazing.
Drenched in sweat after the fourth song, I had to leave the front to get some air and dry off. As I pushed my way through the crowd, I noticed that Jehnny was wearing pink pumps. With their all-black apparel, the brightness of the shoes caught me a little off guard but at the same time screamed “punk”. Yup, I had to take a picture of her shoes. I do not have a shoe fetish.
With only one album under their belt, their set was relatively short, but powerful. The set list for the show was a follows:
- City’s Full
- I Am Here
- Shut Up
- Give Me A Gun
- Waiting for a Sign
- Flying to Berlin
- No Face
- She Will
- Hit Me
- Fuckers (new song)
When the set ended, I met up with my friend and we both shared our excitement for the show we just witnessed. I hung out front for a minute in case any of the players from the evening popped out to greet fans, and lucky enough I was able to get Johnny Hostile, Gemma Thompson, and Jehnny Beth to sign their respective vinyl releases. I was able to get a picture with Gemma, but was thwarted in my efforts to get a picture with Jehnny as another fan scared her away. I swear that Gemma was all smiles before the picture was taken. Savages sure do take their image very seriously.
I had a brief conversation with Johnny Hostile and I noticed that he had an accent. Slightly confused as I thought the band was UK based, he explained that both he and Jehnny were originally from France. Having studied French growing up, and never having the opportunity to use it, I started a conversation in my broken French and concluded the conversation by saying that Gemma was “tres jolie”. He told me that he would tell her that. Please do, Johnny. Please do.