Les Savy Fav: Live September 9, 2004
"What? Oh. I see. And now he's using some clear tape to fashion a belt around his trash bag shirt."
This is the conversation I had with my friend as Les Savy Fav took the stage at Black Cat in Washington, D.C., on September 9, 2004. The kids were primed and ready to be pumped up after the opening bands, Smoke + Smoke and Detachment Kit, played strong sets. While the crowd was large and attentive to the openers, they mostly just stood there-even after Detachment Kit lead singer Ian Menard told the audience, "I just traveled from Boston. I'm going to need a lot more energy that that." The D.C. folks were into the sets, but holding back for the performance that they were there to see.
Once Les Savy Fav singer Tim Harrington walked on stage, the energy changed. The room was obviously filled with loyal fans. They cheered and stood on tiptoes to watch Harrington as he made an entire outfit out of a plastic bag and tape that he wore over his "carpe diem" T-shirt. Once the outfit was complete, he drew whiskers on his cheeks and put on a black furry headpiece, exciting the crowd even more. The music was loud and hard, inspiring lots of head banging, jumping and waving of arms.
Harrington did a lot of pantomime and used several props during the show. He beat a closed fist on his chest as he sang about his beating heart. As the story he sang went downhill, he stuck a finger down his throat, then bent over forward in a throwing up motion. In addition to his bag outfit, his props included a white helmet, broken umbrella and an audience member's gold clutch purse, into which he sang at one point.
Audience interaction with the band was an integral part of the performance. They not only yelled back and forth, but audience members got on stage to play parts directed by Harrington. After one guy served as a human mic stand for drummer Harrison Haynes, Harrington stuck his head up the guy's shirt and proceeded to transfer the shirt from the startled audience member to his own body. He wore the polo shirt backward for the next couple of songs.
In fact, the audience seemed to act as if they were there to see old friends, not just some band. Someone in the crowd yelled, "You got married?" to Harrington. Then to the crowd, "He got married!" Harrington replied with a deadpan, "Yeah. I got married." Seth Jabour (guitar) chimed in with, "Maybe you will someday, too."
The majority of the crowd actually clapped when Harrington encouraged them to do so. He went on to add, "clapping is the best part of a concert. It doesn't mean that you like us."
The crowd was not ready for the show to end after the last song of the hour-long set. They chanted for an encore, a request the band quickly obliged. During the final song, "Who Rocks the Party," a woman with a strapless dress got on stage. She held the mic in front of her belly as Harrington pulled the top of her dress down, covered her breasts with his hands and sung into the mic.
While the set was tight and worked well with the vibe from the other bands, the performance art aspect of the show overshadowed the music a bit. I wish that Harrington's antics, while entertaining, hadn't distracted me from the rest of the band's music.