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Les Savy Fav
Music Hall of Williamsburg
October 12, 2008

Written by Matthew Boyd
Photographed by
Amy Davidson

Opposite Photo:
Tim Harrington of Les Savy Fav

The antics of Les Savy Fav frontman Tim Harrington make headlines, but seeing the band at the Bowery Presents venue the Music Hall of Williamsburg on Sunday, October 12 made me wonder if the rest of the band wasn’t getting shorted on spazz points. As befits the generally eschatalogically serious subject matter of Les Savy Fav’s songs, vocalist Harrington, Guitarist Seth Jabour, Syd Butler, bass, and Harrison Haynes, drums, all do their part to work together as an oracular unit, fixed physically in positions impossible to hold or mangled into spastic tantrums while the world is broken down into grains of meaning the size of Turkish coffee grounds riding on the febrile and fountainous stream of literate and desperate vocals.

Tim Harrington of Les Savy Fav

Following a sometimes uncertain period wherein fans had been given to believe they may have seen the last of Les Savy Fav, the band is these days touring in support of Let’s Stay Friends, their first full-album release of new material in 6 years. The band is undiminished by the time off.

Tim Harrington of Les Savy Fav

Harrington has long been the unflinching prophet of an eschaton that went untelevised, an end of the world that’s yesterday’s news, the grande finale of a world that goes on ending song after song and day after day to the machine like perfection of the tempo Haynes and Butler lay down and Jabour lacerates with the dark eeriness of his trademark reverb-laden guitar. Before this record, however, Harrington lyricised on the perversity of the world in a strictly grandiose key. The songs on Let’s Stay Friends betray the banal leakage of that perversity into an adult’s personal and working life sometimes without metaphor, making this long-in-coming set from the New York enfants terrible a contrast with most of their earlier catalog by virtue of its moments of unameliorated personal bitterness. It’s a subtle transition from the lofty musings on the Raskolnikovs and Moses’ of the world to talking undisguised about the rent-pinched and values-compromised people we know or may be. We go from “Apocalypse can go down easy,” to “I swear I just want to go home” and “They've come to steal your old self and rent back what they stole.”

The band didn’t miss a single beat on Sunday, nailing the stakes of rhythm in the ground to keep Harrington from flying away as he acted out his costume changes, subjected us to stripteases, climbed furniture and fencing, and constantly sought new ways to behave outside the expected boundaries of the “stand on stage and sing” school.

Tim Harrington of Les Savy Fav

Tim Harrington of Les Savy Fav

Having thrown the microphone onto the balcony and climbed the stairs to mingle and perform in the midst of the ascended crowd, there was a moment of tension when security and a couple of fans had to hold Harrington by the belt to keep him from going, in his frenzy, over the balcony’s edge entirely. Haynes’ hinky drumming pounded on as he pulled one shoulder unnaturally to his ear with each swing of his sticks, somehow remaining miraculously still and precise as though, for all that weird motion, he wasn’t moving in the here and now, but in another dimension- and Harrington, for a split second, hung weightless half off and half on the balcony, physically within that limbo he preaches from.

When you see Les Savy Fav perform, you aren’t seeing a band go through the hackneyed motions of pandering to an audience with typically “crazy” behavior; the act hasn’t devolved into purely symbolic bedlam. What you see and what you hear is the howling of the void, the woe of the human condition set on fire and filled with teargas and launched into a crowd.





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