Francis and The Lights and Les Savy Favs
March 13, 2009
Written by Turhan Caylak
Photographed by Amy Davidson
Arriving early and
reconnoitering the venue at Brooklyn’s Masonic
Temple I hastily sequestered a spot directly in
front of the stage where I could get an up-close
look at the bands I was about to see this clear
and chilly night.
Off the bat, the commodious space was a sight to
behold. With its classic proscenium arch and general
standing area flanked by a surrounding mezzanine
the place could assume a populace of about 2,000
I got chills when I thought of the sonorous melodies
and piercing electricity that would soon fill and
reverberate throughout the music hall. Despite the
slow and sleepy start, Fort Greene, and the venue’s
inhabitants, along with the bands themselves, finally
arrived with that sound I was hoping for...eventually.
But, I’ll get back to that.
Commencing with a sparse crowd, Sean Bones, a new
project by lead guitarist, Sean Sullivan, who fronts
Frenchkiss Record’s very own Sam Champion,
opened the night in a very relaxed fashion.
With their cool and smoky Reggae sound I began
thinking I would love to see these guys in a more
intimate setting, like a dive spot in the Lower
East Side, a grimy dig somewhere in the heart of
Williamsburg, or even Brooklyn’s forever happening
Not much of a showman, Sean Sullivan however, did
take the stage and helm his band with a bit of alacrity
as a proud front man should. Cracking some jokes
in between songs Sullivan displayed just the sort
of temperament a man should have while he enjoys
rocking out on any stage at any time.
To the crowd who bounced and grooved to the rhythms
of the night Sullivan came off as a firm believer
in his own music. Fingering his axe with finesse
while even losing the connection to his distortion
peddle at one point, Sullivan slyly got back on
track where only the first row of patrons or even
his band mates could’ve noticed.
All in all, with about six or seven pieces to show
for it, Sean Bones fell short in jump starting the
crowd. In my opinion, I know I’m there to
see the headliner, but, if you’re the card’s
opening act, that’s exactly what I want you
to do: ACT. Sure, in the studio, go crazy and be
cushioned by the fact that you can do a passel of
re-recordings, but, on stage, my friends, blow us
away and be thankful you’re up there. A lot
of us don’t have the talent or the cajones
to do what you do. So, when we hear your music for
the first time and say, “I gotta see these
guys live,” and then witness your energy as
the evening’s opener, a letdown is what comes
to my mind.
Francis and the Lights
Talk about a fun act, Francis and the Lights, led
by the jazzy and swift mover and shaker, Francis
Farewell Starlite, kicked the night’s events
into high gear.
Pretentiousness aside, Mr. Starlite knows how to
achieve an electric symbiosis between himself and
the audience at hand. Think Maroon 5 when you hear
the vocals of the handsome captain who leads this
funky group. With a high yet mellifluous singing
ability, Starlite is clearly that: a star, at least
in his own mind.
To boot, when Mr. Farewell dances and slides across
the stage in between mouthing off his lyrics, Michael
Jackson and James Brown popped into frontal lobes.
I have to say Starlite’s rather calculative
and dexterous when it comes to showing off his movement
As for the music, Francis and the Lights sound
better live than in the studio if you can believe.
That’s not to say that they’re a meager
or timorous faction. It’s just not my sound.
When I strap my ears to the speakers of any sound
system I’m always ready for a good old bluesy
guitar riff that resonates the vessels in my heart.
Frankly, I couldn’t care if the world were
on fire if I had to only listen to their tracks
as I’m doing right now on Myspace.
However, dear readers, The Lights are fun to watch
and are totally into their music. With his high
coiffed mane looking like a lithesome Robert Smith,
Francis Farewell has a good thing going for him.
He grabs your attention, looks you in the eyes,
and inspires you to jump around like a court jester
does to appease a royal court. Even the monkey I
brought with me, my pal Chris, turned diametrically
opposite from the stage, flailed his arms and hopped
around like a great buffoon does to keep the crowd
going. At one point this fine chum of mine, unbeknownst
to him, knocked my pen from my grips. Searching
for a pellet in a pile of buck shot I finally found
the implement in a cold puddle of PBR. It wasn’t
until I used my Black Keys T-shirt to wipe off the
wetness that I could get back to jotting down what
I wanted to say: Mr. Farewell will be a star one
day; however, he needs to sound like he does ‘live’
in order to get there. We need to hear him as if
he were parading around with sudden jolts and rhythmic
wiggles to become propelled to his music. Because
if he hadn’t done a live show yet and all
I had was Myspace to listen to his tracks I would
deign to say I would ever travel outside my door
to review these guys. Sorry, someone had to say
Tim Harrington of Les Savy
After a timely smoke break and an arduous trip
to drain my euphemistic pipes I was raring to go
to see the night’s closing act, Les Savy Fav.
Finding my way and jostling through the now packed
theater, I finally sidled up next to my photographer
friend, Amy. I even bought her a PBR due to her
niceties all night from the start of our trip over
to the Masonic Temple.
Tim Harrington of Les Savy
Watching the road crew set up and placing a plethora
of fluffy, leopard-skinned, goose-feathered pillows
around the stage a smile gradually grew across my
face. I was about to see the biggest buffoon of
the night; aside from my friend Chris, who was probably
fondling a girl somewhere in the back at this point.
PBR’s will do that to man.
Tim Harrington of Les Savy
Known for his on stage antics and humorous taste
in wardrobe, lead singer Tim Harrington is an absolute
hoot. Grizzly Adams with a big heart flits across
the imagination when this sizeable teddy bear takes
the stage. Sporting a not-so-glamorous nightgown
himself, Harrington immediately sends a telepathic
yet prodigious message to the audience: I’m
gonna have fun and so are you.
Like any good front man, Harrington draws you in
with his childlike sensibilities and then decides
to playfully toss you one of his pillows as if he
were the host of his own rock-out slumber party.
Soon after the mangled cushion returns, ostensibly
masticated by a crowd monster, Harrington grabs
some flying feathers and begins to paste them to
the top of his dome where anyone could tell that
hair used to reside.
Les Savy Fav Fan
With their definite place in art rock, Les Savy
Fav filled the room with their musically erratic
and melodically jumpy style. Harrington sometimes
yells his lyrics which to some can be unintelligible,
however, at a rock show that cares about what your
favorite band is spewing from their mouth when most
fans know all the lyrics in the first place.
Syd Butler, the band’s bassist, also the
owner of FrenchKiss Records, Les Savy Fav’s
label, does two things well: Plucking out the rhythms
on his electric stick and driving the band to its
histrionic heights. Butler can also pick winners
with front men, especially with Harrington leading
the way. This band would be nothing without the
likes of him. If you extricated Harrington from
the crew Les Savy Fav would be just another new
addition to the post-hardcore wave that continues
to pile up audiences and speak to a perpetual generation
of people who simply want to rock out to a good
show. That’s what Les Savy Fav does for us
and what I foresee them doing for years to come.