ACL Live Shot: Savages

Female UK quartet proves all too true to its name

Lead Savage Jehnny Beth
Lead Savage Jehnny Beth (by Jana Birchum)

British fourpiece Savages have intimidating game faces, none more menacing than frontwoman Jehnny Beth’s.

Decked entirely in black, save for the singer’s pink flats and Gemma Thompson’s turquoise guitar, the ladies blasted their experimental punk to an early afternoon crowd.

Kicking off with “I Am Here” from its 2013 debut, Silence Yourself, Savages began a 40-minute eardrum pummel with distorted quips from a crushing guitar. Beth’s Karen O-styled vocals rang, punctuated by animated gestures that made it seem like she was accusing the audience. She crawled onto the speakers for “I Need Something New,” lording over the crowd even from a crouch.

For all of Beth’s noticeable antics, Thompson’s power chords and Ayse Hassan’s notable bass rundowns further highlighted the, well, savage strength of the band, albeit not as deep as the disc version. For “No Face,” Hassan launched a minute-long bass slap, while Thompson’s guitar bursts proved the true carnage of Savages.

They didn’t mind a bit of camp. “She Will” found the increasingly frantic singer doing rock’s version of jazz hands while the song mounted slowly, finally kneading in a crush of guitar and smoke haze that I briefly thought would cause the band to topple under its own weight. It didn’t.

After fusing more dynamite with “Shut Up” and “Hit Me” and before the last note had entirely faded, the quartet was gone, without ceremony or another bang.

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ACL Fest 2013, Savages, Jehnny Beth, Genna Thompson