Savages heighten contrast to achieve total live music immersion


Photos by James Nagel // Written by Mike Frash

Jenny Beth embodies the ethos of Savages‘ first record, Silence Yourself. Upon taking the stage at the Independent Friday (September 27), Beth surveyed the room to the opening instrumentals of “I Am Here”, commanding the room by darting pierced looks of fury at individuals in the audience. Everyone present at the sold out performance reciprocated with compliant reverence — entering the venue we were individually told there was a cell phone ban in effect for Savages, and multiple print outs placed on every wall in the house carried a more nuanced message than the bouncers.

The sign made waves earlier this year when Savages first started enforcing a policy that proportionately reflects the group’s music and stage presence. The most informative part of the camera ban relates to the idea of immersion, and that the four members of Savages are striving to deliver a live music experience that thrives on the idea of living in the moment and being where you are. The effect of rapturous immersion wasn’t only accomplished through the denial of modern technology though — the fierce all female foursome achieved their goal of “totally immersing ourselves” through visual aesthetics and sound that center around elements of contrast.


Beth’s stage presence exhibits traditional masculinity and is accented by her androgynous look, but it adds up to a style of hard femininity. She engrosses herself in each moment, sending vibes out to the crowd while peering out in search of response. Her moves are like a stop-start Henry Rollins, and Beth keeps the stage banter to a minimum, letting the music speak for itself.

The Savages front woman subverts traditional gender roles by wearing mens pleated pants and sporting buzzed hair, but Beth directly contrasts this message by wearing high heels, one of the biggest feminist scorns. This juxtaposition sends a mixed message of homogeneous subversion, creating an ambiguous visual aesthetic that contrasts normalcy.

Black and white, the ultimate contrast between dark and bright, is utilized masterfully by Savages through lighting and wardrobe. The lighting at the Independent was devoid of color, deferring to darkness then illuminating the room with white light during high-impact moments. All members of Savages are clad in black from head to toe, except for Beth’s light yellow heels. This draws greater attention to the faces of the performers and aids in the immersion process.


Much like the lighting and wardrobe, Savages’ music centers itself in duality and choice. Savages lyrics delve into strong, graphic storytelling about being present in the moment, sexual exploration, & dominance vs. submission. And it’s done through poetic prose, far from being straight-forward or didactic.

“I Am Here” is a call to action, a tone-setting statement to be where you are. “Shut Up” explores the notion of the world being a “dead sorry hole” and trying to intervene, only to find rejection. “Hit Me” finds storytelling in the form of a submissive abuse — “Hit me with your hands, oh it’s the only way I ever learn.”

The driving, dynamic drum and bass is the most immersive element of Savages in a live setting. Combine this with fuzzy guitar work from Gemma Thompson that is used as a rhythmic layer more than a lead element, and it’s impossible to not be drawn in at an aural level. All four members of Savages are constantly moving, leading by example, showing the engagement level that they expect from their audience.


“No Face” was the first big highlight of the night. The song ends in a fury, and it brought about a huge response, prompting Beth to say “I was waiting for you.” “Husbands” was aborted after a couple measures so drummer Fay Milton could launch into an the explicit “Hit Me” before giving “Husbands” it’s proper play. The false-start to “Husbands” made the song even more enjoyable when it came back around. “Fuckers”, a song that doesn’t appear on Silence Yourself, encouraged that you “don’t let those fuckers get you down.” Opener Duke Garwood joined the headliners for an elongated and intense “Marshall Dear”.

Overall, Savages curate an immersive live music experience while contrasting with the rest of contemporary music — they’ve blasted through the doors of homogeneity and aren’t looking back. And that is a damn good thing.

MARSHAL DEAR — With Duke Garwood
XXX — With Duke Garwood


  1. I freaking love this review. I was so bummed I missed them at last fest they were playing..can’t wait to see them live!


  1. […] Savages // James Nagel The Independent // 9.27.13 […]

  2. […] Savages – The Independent – September 29th Savages made a big splash this year with their album Silence Yourself, and much of the publicity […]

  3. […] album Silence Yourself to critical acclaim, taking the ethos of the record on the road with them by banning phones based on the idea of immersion. For every show, they put up signs that […]

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