Antics, I can take them or leave them. From KISS to GWAR, some bands just don’t let their music speak for itself, rather they create (or enhance) the experience through a gimmick, an act, or in the case of Les Savy Fav‘s Tim Harrington, total insanity. Whether or not the need or desire to play a persona says anything about the quality of the music is debatable, but keep in mind the likes of Kurt Cobain, Eddie Vedder, Charles Bukowski, or Hunter S. Thompson. Hell, look in the mirror and ask who doesn’t use a persona in their professional life. Most of us, though, don’t go to the extent of Tim Harrington.
En route to Echo Park, the gentrified home of tonight’s venue The Echoplex, I tell my photographer to make sure he keeps his camera at a safe distance from the singer. He looks confused, and I explain that the guy is a little out-there. Now this was my first Les Savy Fav show as well as Pat’s, but I was familiar with these so-called antics. And I knew that the camera Pat was holding was expensive. And I knew that because it belongs to my father.
“Don’t worry about it,” I tell him, already creating an auspicious and uneasy cloud that would follow us into the warehouse-like venue.
The Echoplex is one of the larger venues in L.A. that puts on true indie shows, along with its upstairs little sister The Echo. Venues of comparable size, like the El Rey and Troubadour will have sponsors behind the shows, but The Echoplex, though kind of nice in a secret-whorehouse kind of way, prides itself on being a dive. But with tickets at 10 bucks and free parking, who can complain? My biggest desire upon arriving into the half-full hall? Find a seat. I was on show number five of a crazy rock ‘n roll week and all I wanted was to sit the fuck down, and I never sit at a show. Not that I’m complaining, because seriously how awesome is it to see great live music often, but if you are ever considering it, five shows in a week may be pushing it.
So after finding a nicely situated column to lean on and preparing to be miserable, I caught the first glimpse of the band setting up and tuning. While a curtain opening with intro music does set a certain mood and increase the drama, watching guys set up their own shit also sets a mood, making the band seem less like a separate entity and more like part of the community. Harrington was only visible for a second, appearing happy as he waved to the crowd. Then at about 11, with the lights down, Harrington re-emerged wearing a ski mask, with only his eyes visible. From there, it was on.
Size aside, the energy that Tim Harrington leaves out on the stage would impress Lance Armstrong, and though it makes me feel like a giant pussy complaining about my fatigue from watching shows, once the opening guitar of “The Equestrian” began, I was once again my normal self and joined the audience. It was around this time two thoughts came to me: 1. Let’s Stay Friends is a terrific album. It hasn’t gotten old and defies art-punk/bro-rock paradigm that it borrows from and 2. I had no idea why Les Savy Fav are touring. Their last album is years old, so it came to me that we might get some new songs.
Which we did. After two more crowd-pleasers from Let’s Stay Friends, the band announced that they had finished recording and had a couple new songs to play over the course of the night. The new material sounded as strong as anything they’ve ever written, with the first offering a shout-out chorus noting “We still have our appetite” and then finishing with a partial cover of the Silver Jews’ “Punks in the Beerlight”*. The second new song was a bit more melodic and reserved, fitting in with the opening song off their last album. The entirety of the material performed otherwise dipped deep into the back catalog, representing their entire career, and included a number of jams that still hit like a heavyweight.
While Les Savy Fav may hammer the quick ones hard enough to boil veins, the fact of the matter remains that everyone wants to see something crazy. With this being my first Les Savy Fav show, I was a little underwhelmed with the antics. But it was no fault of the band’s, it was just one of the drawbacks of reputation. During the show, Harrington spotted someone who looked like Weird Al Yankovic (what a sad day it will be when this reference is lost on young people), and later when the look-alike jumped on stage, Harrington took down his pants to expose his dick to the audience. From there, the show sped along with the singer spending most of the time amidst the crowd, leaving the band on-stage who wore horrified looks of apprehension. You can’t help but think the rest of the band has an act too, sort of like a dramatic foil. And if that is the case, they are damn good at acting apologetic.
By show’s end, a fan screamed nonsensically into the mic on stage, while Harrington perched himself on a table, his head concealed in an attack space that came off as equal parts satirist and court jester. It seemed like Harrington has used this gathering, probably at all the shows they play, as a form of performance art, seeing how far he can take ridiculousness when the reputation for such precedes you. In fact, just the day before, Les Savy Fav played a free show at The Getty Museum, a world renowned art institute. And you know what, even in the red spandex wrestling suit he donned for the beginning of the encore, Harrington seems like he wouldn’t feel uncomfortable anywhere, because like KISS, GWAR, and many others, he is not really there at all.
Oh yeah, and the camera was not harmed.
Photography by Pat DeVaney.
Les Savy Fav setlist:
What Would Wolves Do?
New Song (Appetites)/ Punks in the Beerlight (Silver Jews partial cover)
Yawn, Yawn, Yawn
In These Woods
New Song (Outta Here)
The Sweat Descends
Who Rocks The Party