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ACL Fest review: Savages

Joe Gross
jgross@statesman.com

Editor’s note: This article was originally published October 4, 2013

“I need something new,” Savages singer Jehnny Beth sang/intoned. “I’m doing my best to make it possible.”

Perhaps that is not the wisest lyric for a band that owes a whole lot of its sound to the post-punk of the late 70s (and of 2002, for that matter).

But the British band can sell it pretty well, as it did during a Friday afternoon set on the Honda stage at the Austin City Limits Music Festival.

Then again, 1 p.m. is a merciless time slot, especially if you are playing music that is perhaps more appropriate to darkened clubs. The fog machine did its level best, but outside with even a light wind, it vaguely looked the smoke from a bad fire behind them that was intermittently blown out.

Savages’ songs are jagged little pills, driven largely by bassist Ayse Hassan’s sharp lines and Fay Milton’s frantic drumming. Gemma Thompson’s guitar, usually overdriven and sheet-metallic, is used largely as texture and coloring. The band’s 40-minutes-on-the-nose set was drawn almost entirely from their 2013 debut “Silence Yourself” (Matador).

Beth is a pretty hypnotic frontwoman, all dour (possibly heat exhausted) facial expressions, keening vocals and completely excellent pleated, slihgtly ballooning pants, the better to recall the ’80s, perhaps.

Songs such as “Hit Me,” “She Will” and “Shut Up” buzzed and howled under the (very literal) influence of heat. It was solid stuff, full of punch and verve, but the midday context was unforgiving.