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Review Sun Jun 26 2011

Review: Les Savy Fav @ Subterranean, 6/25 & Green Music Fest, 6/26

Far too many people claim that far too many bands must be seen live to be fully appreciated. Now, there are a lot of bands who use their live performances to add respectably to their recorded catalogs and are usually very good on stage. However, few are actually entertaining enough to be must-sees night after night. But Les Savy Fav is one of those. And we've been lucky in Chicago to see them often over the years. Neither Saturday at Subterranean nor Sunday at Green Music Fest were exceptions.

For as much as people talk about Tim Harrington's antics as the main draw, the band behind him is totally underrated. Like Jon Spencer, Drive-By Truckers and anything with John Reis, Les Savy Fav figures out how to turn studio weaknesses into live strengths. Post-punk hooks that don't stand out on a record come across monstrous. Choruses that should be anthemic find life. Now, don't get me wrong, it's unlikely many people go to Les Savy Fav shows to hear some riff pop out, but it's not uncommon to see a lot of heads faced toward the stage no matter where Tim Harrington ends up. But he'll always be the star.

On Saturday evening, Harrington walked out in a wig, a woman's red shirt, striped shorts and he'd taken some liberties with eye black. He doled out Ritz crackers like holy wafers (and then spit a chewed one into a fan's mouth), adjusted the lighting rig, hung upside down on the spiral staircase, drank a beer poured to him from the balcony (though it mostly ended up on his chest), used every available inch of microphone cord in a 10-block radius, walked to street level, made his way to the soundboard a few times, lost clothing at regular intervals and on and on. After a lengthy delay on Sunday, he emerged from backstage looking pretty dirty (though we've seen him dirtier) in a knitted poncho, a Paisley-patterned shirt and normal pants. His first order of business was pulling two ropes from the mobile stage corners, tying them together and using them to balance on the barrier railing and leaning over the crowd. The ropes held, but not for long. Soon enough, he was in the crowd, encouraging Moshing 101, dogsitting, ending a song on top of a tent, crowdsurfing in a chair (though no competition to crowdsurfing in a garbage can), smearing eye black (again) all over his body, finding his way to a 2nd-floor apartment and Lord knows what else on street level that could only be seen by immediate bystanders.

Through it all, the band plowed through their set and treated Tim as if he were just a large child who gets crazy sometimes but will always work his way out of trouble. They know what they're in for and look like nothing he'd do would surprise them. The same probably goes for most people who've seen them a few times. Yet they still command attention like few bands and always leave people shaking their heads and saying, "I've never seen that at a show before." Of course they didn't. They're a must-see for a reason.

 
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Feature Thu Dec 31 2015

Our Final Transmission Days

By The Gapers Block Transmission Staff

Transmission staffers share their most cherished memories and moments while writing for Gapers Block.

Read this feature »

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