Thanks to a random tweet I caught Thursday afternoon, Shana and I each won a pair of tickets to the undersold Les Savy Fav and Vivian Girls show at BAM for Friday night. Despite some initial protestations, we dragged ourselves along with Bestest Boy and Julie into the arctic freeze and ended up having a rockin' time.
I saw Vivian Girls six months ago at the Whitney Museum and really enjoyed them then in the cramped quarters, as it felt like we were part of some loud basement party. However, tonight in the much grander Howard Gilman Opera House, the girls felt a little lost. The sound mix did them no favors at first, with lead vocals and harmonies swallowed by the acoustics. Also, being the opener is always tough, especially with the venue only a quarter filled and with people filtering in, and people seated for their performance. It was not until at least halfway through when their sound began to gel, and the songs began to take form. At that point, guitarist and lead singer Cassie Ramone made some comment about the Xanax finally starting to work, so maybe nerves had worn away at that point.
Next up were Les Savy Fav. I had had zero exposure to this band up until this point, dismissing them as some gag act based on pictures I've seen on various blogs. My basic assumption was that they were just a band with some fat bald dude acting outlandishly, and when Tim Harrington, the lead singer, came onto the stage wearing purple leggings and a loose fitting beige cloth over his shirtless body, and clothespins attached to his beard, and did a solo interpretative dance, he really did nothing to dispel that notion. But then his band joined him and it all changed from there.
To my surprise, the band played very tight rhythms that zagged all over the place but were not sloppy. I was reminded of times I had seen Modest Mouse, Built To Spill or The Flaming Lips, with the music being loose and jangly, yet deliberate and well-crafted at the same time. The band itself held my interest quite well, as they played the straight men to the antics of Harrington, who, instead of being a distraction, complemented the instruments rather well, reminding me at times of Jello Biafra with his voice and dialogue with the audience. Yes, he was a crazy looking fat dude running all over the stage and into the crowd, but his angry-goofy-gibberish song rants, energy, enthusiasm and sheer earnestness overcame my pre-judgment. At the start of LSF's set, Harrington dropped into the crowd beckoning people to stand, and it ended up being the right thing to do. Despite the opera house setting with assigned seating, it quickly became apparent that it would take a lot more than that to contain the force that is Les Savy Fav.
Here's a video I shot of an older song, "Who Rocks the Party":
The four of us walked away from that performance delighted and impressed with the spectacle we had witnessed. I am looking forward to digging into their catalog more.
(Brooklyn Vegan quoted my review here.)